The Divining Wand

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Archive for January, 2012

Guest Daniel Pyne: What I Write

January 31, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[The decision to reopen The Divining Wand was based on the goal of offering more diversity in both books and authors. For example, today’s guest showcases other forms of storytelling to prove how a writer can transition between formats and highlight his natural talent. Enjoy!]

Daniel Pyne has been at home in the world of film, TV, and books for over 30 years. His long list of screenwriting credits include The Manchurian Candidate, Fracture, Any Given Sunday, and Miami Vice. Currently, he is a writer, executive producer, and co-showrunner on JJ Abrams’ new TV show Alcatraz on FOX. He is also author of the cult noir novel, Twentynine Palms (which was also made into a feature film). His new novel, A Hole In The Ground Owned by a Liar was released on January 17th.

What I Write

I never really intended to be a screenwriter.

It was supposed to be a fallback position I would take while developing my prose writing skills, and in case I couldn’t make enough money to support myself writing the fiction I loved. You know. Serious fiction. Write one episode of television a year, a movie here and there. Imagine my surprise to discover that screenwriting was a career that people spent their lives mastering and that – initially, anyway – the skills required were hardly compatible with the skills required to write a short story, or novel. Not that they weren’t equivalent. Just different.

But as the literary magazine rejection slips piled up, it became clear to me that I might have to take a different path and, because my writing was always peculiarly visual, the shift to screenplays was, eventually, both gratifying and right for me.

I loved movies. I loved dialogue, and description – so much so that much of the early criticism of my scripts was that they were too literary, e.g. too many words. It’s a fair comment and a sin of which I am still guilty.

Oh well.

Screenwriting is the art of visual storytelling embellished by dialogue – one picture followed by another, and another, until the story concludes. Television (I’m sorry) is radio with pictures. Short stories are almost impossibly hard. And novels live in the imagination of the reader, requiring a kind of painting with words.

It hasn’t been that difficult for me to move between the different disciplines. I think, however, ironically that it took many years of screenwriting to prepare me for novels. The concision of a screenplay, the momentum, the architecture have all bled across into my prose storytelling more than I ever would have believed possible. Initially, the hardest thing was letting go of the rigid discipline of “showing and not telling.” The internal life of a character in a film, or on television, is the product of indirection and suggestion. You can never know what they’re thinking, you must express it with an action, or through dialogue, or in the spaces between the action and the dialogue, like a kind of bastardized free verse poetry with its own syntax and shorthand.

At first, it was a fitful process, in which my prose fiction characters would move and then think, move again, and then think again. It’s probably just that the underlying foundations of each form are so at odds: film is the art of discovering how much you can leave out and still tell your tale, novels are an endless process of discovering how much you can put in before your reader loses interest and falls out of the chair.
Using the past tense was also a challenge, strangely. You get so used to present tense writing screenplays that you forget how much it defines your style. Screenplays are inherently sloppy – sentence fragments, funky grammar, half-formed thoughts. Screenplays are a gesture.

And yet.

Writing screenplays has liberated me for prose writing. I’m no longer intimidated by the blank page, or the necessity of the perfect word, the perfect phrasing, the perfect idea. There’s a powerful momentum in a movie narrative, carrying you forward in the way that the great novels will, pulling you instead of pushing you.

Unfortunately it doesn’t work both ways. The more prose I write, the less patience I have for the blunt force trauma of movie and television storytelling where subtlety is generally discouraged, and the end product (a script) is just something transient to get everybody to agree to make a movie that may or may not, in the end, be what you wrote. And I’ve been so over-exposed to novels written solely with the intention of selling them to a movie company, that I am even more determined to take what I’ve learned as a twenty-first century screenwriter and bring it back to the prose form in a way that can tell stories in a new and dynamic voice without surrendering all that is unique about books, and that has stood the test of time.

The first time I saw my prose printed, and bound – and realized that it would never get changed, noted, revised, re-interpreted, spun, overanalyzed or subjected to audience testing – I was blown away.
People would read my words, and my words would tell a story, beginning to end, without mediation.

What a concept.

* * * * *

“Daniel Pyne’s A Hole in the Ground Owned By a Liar will put to rest any idle fantasies the reader may have of setting out prospecting for gold. A harrowingly funny story of brotherly strife, amorous misconduct, and small dreams blown disastrously out of proportion. I loved it.” –Scott Phillips, author of The Adjustment and national bestseller The Ice Harvest

“Smart, sexy, funny, and a brilliant storyteller. And that’s just me. Wait till you read Dan . . . ” –Eric Idle

Now a major thank you to Daniel Pyne for providing an excerpt that exemplifies his hybrid style between book and screenplay. Yes there’s (more…)

The Revealing of Erika Liodice

January 26, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Author Erika Liodice dreams, creates to succeed, and inspires others to do the same. With passion and determination, she became a debut novelist in late November, 2011 when her first novel Empty Arms was published as an ebook in Kindle and NOOK Book editions. And only last week Empty Arms was released in paperback. One might say that Erika’s arms now hold her dream come true.

The story is based on a life built on secrets, half truths, evasion, and lies. Not exactly a reader’s choice for a tender, warm-hearted selection, yet the ebook has garnered 5 ***** ratings and the following praise:

“Empty Arms is a compelling novel about haunting secrets, risk and consequence, and one woman’s journey to build a future out of the scattered ashes of her past. A beautiful debut.” ~ Therese Walsh, author of THE LAST WILL OF MOIRA LEAHY

The Synopsis:

Catharine Chase’s entire life is built on a secret. In 1972, at the tender age of sixteen, she got pregnant. An embarrassment to her parents, Catharine was exiled to a maternity home to carry out her pregnancy far away from the watchful eyes of their tight-knit community. What they didn’t tell her is that she wouldn’t be allowed to keep her baby.

With her daughter’s screams still echoing in her ears, the medical staff told Catharine she’d move on with her life and have more children, they promised she’d forget. But they were wrong. Catharine never forgot Emily. And when she and her husband, Paul, learn that they can’t have children, she risks her job, her marriage, and her family’s reputation in a desperate attempt to find the daughter she never wanted to give away and reclaim her only chance to be a mother.

The Divining Wand has scheduled a visit from Erika on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 however — between now and then — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Erika Liodice is an award-winning blogger and founder of the inspirational blog, Beyond the Gray, where she shares her journey to publication while encouraging readers to reach for their own dreams. She is a book reviewer at Reader Unboxed and a contributor to Writer Unboxed, The Savvy Explorer, and Lehigh Valley InSite. Empty Arms is her first novel.

And now it’s time to get to know Erika at her upclose and revealing best.

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Chasing my dreams, inspiring others to chase theirs.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” -Confucius

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. Sipping wine with my husband on a sunny afternoon overlooking a body of water.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Losing my husband. He’s my best friend; I couldn’t live without him.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. On a tropical island basking in sunshine.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Henry David Thoreau because I derive much of my inspiration from “sauntering in nature”, I spend a good deal of time pondering my purpose here, and I love to travel. Plus, like Thoreau, I spent many years working at passionless day jobs in order to support my writing dream.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Jodi Picoult because she writes about tough topics that challenge my beliefs and change the way I look at things.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. In my writing it’s: my stomach tightens. I was horrified when I realized how much my protagonist’s stomach was tightening! Fortunately, I discovered this during the editing phase and was able to correct it.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. To speak many languages fluently. English is my native language and I studied Spanish for 11 years, but I would love to know a few more so I can converse with all of the interesting people I meet during my travels.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Building a life that I absolutely love.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Over-committing myself.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. I put my heart and soul into everything I do.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. Not going to art school.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. Sometimes I think it would be fun to be the sun because I’d always be warm and I’d get to travel around the world every day.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I think people immediately notice that I’m tall and blonde, but I hope they also notice that I have a big heart and love to laugh.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. I’ve loved Nancy Drew since I was a little girl. The Nancy I grew up with was multi-talented, self-reliant, clever, and fearless. She was great role model and I loved getting lost in her adventures.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. I love to hate Miranda Priestley from The Devil Wears Prada. She’s so evil, but I also sort of wish she’d let me borrow her clothes.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Bethany Hamilton (the surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack). I’d like to tell her that I don’t know how she ever got back in the water but that I admire her determined spirit, positive attitude, and commitment to her passion.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. When people complain about things that are within their control.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Being my husband’s wife. Too sappy? Okay, bargain hunting on Craigslist.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Professional vacationer.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Good sense of humor, honesty, and kindness.

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

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. 1) “The Scientist” by Coldplay, 2) “Innocente” by Delerium, 3) “In the Waiting Line” by Zero 7, 4) “Blindfold” by Morcheeba, and 5) “La Femme Parallel” by Thievery Corporation.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. 1) The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, 2) The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks, 3) The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, 4) The Pilot’s Wife by Anita Shreve, and 5) The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Ann Brashares.

Erika Liodice is writing her dream life by working hard as well as playing hard so why not join her by being a follower on Twitter, becoming a friend on Facebook, and reading Empty Arms!

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Book Giveaway: And the winner of Sarah McCoy’s The Baker’s Daughter is: Jennifer Downing. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with the delivery address (home or email download) and your choice of book format.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted: Why Do I Write?

January 25, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[ After 11 years as an independent bookseller and buyer Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter, Sisters 8 complete series, The Bro-Magnet published in both Kindle and NOOK Book) decided to try her hand at writing and, as is known, discovered success. And, while a complete page lists what she writes, today Lauren answers the question of why.]


The Cliff Notes version? Because I have stories to tell.

The expanded version? The truth is, there are two different kinds of writing for me, best exemplified by how I approach drafts. The first draft of a book is for my own entertainment. That’s why I wrote THE BRO-MAGNET, a comedy about an ultimate man’s man who’s been Best Man eight times when what he really longs to be is a groom. Even though my writing career started with comedic novels for adults, in recent years my focus and success has been in YA and children’s books, so it wasn’t like the traditional publishing world was clamoring for more adult books from me. But I’d gotten the idea, it tickled my fancy, and I couldn’t help but write it because I needed to see how the story would turn out. Once I was finished, I decided maybe others would enjoy it too, so I decided I might publish it as an ebook. Then I started revising.

Remember when I said the first draft was for me? Well, all subsequent drafts are with the audience in mind. Flash-forward to yesterday. I was on Twitter when I came across people who I’d never spoken to before, trading tweets about what the funniest scene in the book was for each. That cat scene that had given me so much pleasure to write? They’d loved it. And the Barn Opera? They thought that was a hoot too. In fact, they thought the whole book was hysterical. Seeing that made it a good day to be me. So that’s why I write: to please myself and to please others.

Oh, and in case your wondering where the title THE BRO-MAGNET came from…

My husband, Greg Logsted, is a novelist by night and a window washer by day. One day he told me about washing some guy’s windows with his crew and how every time he goes to this guy’s house, the guy says, “Let’s go skiing sometime”; “Let’s do this”; “Let’s do that.” It occurred to me that this was not the first time in the 28 years I’ve known Greg that I’d heard something like this: some guy, barely even knowing my husband, wanting to bond and become buddies. This particular instance happened right around the time the word “bromance” entered the lexicon strongly – you’d hear people applying it to TV shows like “House” or films like the Sherlock Holmes versions Robert Downey Jr stars in. Suddenly my brain went poof! like it always does when I have an idea for a new book. Those ideas always begin with “What if…?” In this case, it was “What if there was an ultimate man’s man, a guy that other guys actually fight over to get him to be Best Man at their weddings, but he secretly longs to be a groom?” And of course the hero of this book would be THE BRO-MAGNET.

* * * * *

Instant Reading Gratification:
Three ebooks at the Ready

January 24, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: ebooks, Recommendations

[Now that ereaders have become more popular than ever The Divining Wand believes that occasional recommendations of ebooks would be a welcome feature. Today, starting off the series of Instant Reading Gratification, there are two comedic novels and one timely drama. May you enjoy!]

Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade) continues to amuse in a thoughtful way with ROS, described as:

DeTarsio’s literary talents shine with tenderness and humor as she once again takes readers into the heart of women’s lives in an unforgettable tale. Filled with friendship, love, loss, betrayal and out-of-this-world challenges that force her characters to find their place in the universe, Ros gives us the hopefully-ever-after we’re all searching for.

When a plane crashed behind Micki Cramer’s house, in San Diego, California, she kept waiting for the sirens and rescue team to show up. As the first responder, it was up to her to tug on the arm that was waving out of the broken wreckage. Holding her breath against the choking smoke, she managed to get the pilot out and carry him to safety into her backyard. He wasn’t that heavy; he was about the size of her 10-year-old nephew, who did play a lot of video games and ate nothing but Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, but still. As it turns out, he wasn’t a guy after all.

Ros, the pilot, was on a mission to find her missing brother who had crash-landed at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Seems she was a bad driver, too, missing her target by nearly a thousand miles and more than half a century.

If Ros can teach Micki how to use eleven percent of her brain, how can Micki help Ros?

“San Diego author Dee DeTarsio’s Ros is a charming, action-filled suspense novel…With the clock ticking, Ros is a delightful journey of two characters who each yearn to be better.”

“You’ll laugh a lot when you read this book, but under the humor you’ll detect a deftly written story of the redemptive power of love and friendship.” –Carol K. Carr, author of India Black

* * * * *

After spending the last few years writing YA and middle grade books, Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter and Sisters 8 complete series), the versatile and prolific author has written a light-hearted adult novel, The Bro-Magnet published in both Kindle and NOOK Book format.

The description may cause a smile and nod:

Women have been known to lament, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” For Johnny Smith, the problem is, “Always a Best Man, never a groom.” At age 33, housepainter Johnny has been Best Man eight times. The ultimate man’s man, Johnny loves the Mets, the Jets, his weekly poker game, and the hula girl lamp that hangs over his basement pool table. Johnny has the instant affection of nearly every man he meets, but one thing he doesn’t have is a woman to share his life with, and he wants that desperately. When Johnny meets District Attorney Helen Troy, he decides to renounce his bro-magnet ways in order to impress her. With the aid and advice of his friends and family, soon he’s transforming his wardrobe, buying throw pillows, ditching the hula girl lamp, getting a cat and even changing his name to the more mature-sounding John. And through it all, he’s pretending to have no interest in sports, which Helen claims to abhor. As things heat up with Helen, the questions arise: Will Johnny finally get the girl? And, if he’s successful in that pursuit, who will he be now that he’s no longer really himself? THE BRO-MAGNET is a rollicking comedic novel about what one man is willing to give up for the sake of love.

“…an absolutely charming, feel-good read. Lauren Baratz-Logsted writes genuine characters, killer comedic timing and romantic blunders that are truly something special.” ~ Romantic Times

“There are books that make you happy to be a reader. This is one of those books.” ~ Smitten With Reading

* * * * *

Although Kim Arbor has answered So Why Does She Wrtie?, what does she write about in His Wife and Daughters that again can be purchased either as a Kindle Edition or a NOOK Book.

Written from past to present, the novel begins:


Trina Brath and her teenage daughters, Jill and Phoebe, lead happy and privileged lives as the wife and daughters of successful five-term California Congressman Dan Brath. But all that changes when Dan, 52, is suspected of having an affair with Lesley Chisholm, a nineteen-year-old Washington DC intern who has gone missing. Soon Dan Brath is being accused in the harsh media spotlight of not only sleeping with Lesley Chisholm, but responsible for her disappearance.

Despite Trina’s standing by her husband and insisting he is not a murderer—yet keeping the secret that he has cheated on her many times before—the incessant media scrutiny puts a strain on the family, causing their lives to go into a tailspin.

Eight months later, when Lesley mysteriously returns home safe and sound, Dan Brath’s career is over, and his family is in tatters.


The scandal that rocked the Brath family continues to take its toll. Amid media reports of new political sexploits almost every week, it’s a handy reference point for a gossip-hungry public. Besides her trust issues with men, Jill self-medicates with food. Phoebe leads a self-destructive life, having been estranged from the family for years. And Trina, who continues to blame Lesley Chisholm for the family’s financial and career misfortunes, maintains a codependent relationship with her husband.

To make matters worse, Lesley Chisholm is breaking her silence with a tell-all memoir—a book Trina is trying to stop—which is sure to make Dan Brath’s wife and daughters relive the trauma all over again. Will Jill, Trina and Phoebe be able to cope, heal their wounds and move on with their lives?

Told from the viewpoints of the three women, His Wife and Daughters is a moving story of how one family attempts to survive the ultimate betrayal.

“Although sensational and devastating, HIS WIFE AND DAUGHTERS is a quiet little novel about real people. …And what they do and say may stun, annoy, or simply amaze you to wonder: How could they or how could they not?

Kim Arbor holds love and loyalty to the ultimate test in this timely book!” ~ Larramie

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ATTENTION: Three Wishes the collaborative true story of three friends’ journey to motherhood (see presentation/review) is officially out in paperback today.


Book Giveaway: In celebration of release day for Sarah McCoy’s The Baker’s Daughter, The Divining Wand will give away one copy of the book — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 EST tonight! The winner will be announced here on Thursday.

Picture the Book: PURE

January 19, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Book Trailers, Books

When Julianna Baggott appeared on The Divining Wand last May, she had written the lovely romance The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted as one of her Bridget Asher novels. That was then and oh how time and books change.

For on Wednesday, February 8th, the author’s highly anticipated, riveting, breakout novel PURE — the first volume in her post-apocalypse thriller trilogy — will be released.

Fox 2000 has already acquired the film rights to PURE and the reviews are amazing:

“Julianna Baggott enjoys living on the knife edge between hilarity and heartbreak, and that makes her a writer after my own heart.”
— Richard Russo, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

“[PURE is …] a great gorgeous whirlwind of a novel, boundless in its imagination. You will be swept away.”
— Justin Cronin, New York Times bestselling author of The Passage

“… extraordinary … an important book … by one of our finest writers.”
— Robert Olen Butler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

Ah, but those are only three raves, here is an entire page of Praise about the book.

In a Letter to Readers, Julianna explains the origins of PURE.

The synopsis:

We know you are here, our brothers and sisters . . .
Pressia barely remembers the Detonations or much about life during the Before. In her sleeping cabinet behind the rubble of an old barbershop where she lives with her grandfather, she thinks about what is lost-how the world went from amusement parks, movie theaters, birthday parties, fathers and mothers . . . to ash and dust, scars, permanent burns, and fused, damaged bodies. And now, at an age when everyone is required to turn themselves over to the militia to either be trained as a soldier or, if they are too damaged and weak, to be used as live targets, Pressia can no longer pretend to be small. Pressia is on the run.

Burn a Pure and Breathe the Ash . . .
There are those who escaped the apocalypse unmarked. Pures. They are tucked safely inside the Dome that protects their healthy, superior bodies. Yet Partridge, whose father is one of the most influential men in the Dome, feels isolated and lonely. Different. He thinks about loss-maybe just because his family is broken; his father is emotionally distant; his brother killed himself; and his mother never made it inside their shelter. Or maybe it’s his claustrophobia: his feeling that this Dome has become a swaddling of intensely rigid order. So when a slipped phrase suggests his mother might still be alive, Partridge risks his life to leave the Dome to find her.

When Pressia meets Partridge, their worlds shatter all over again

And now the opportunity to picture the book.

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

Please remember that PURE is available for Pre-order in both Hardcover and ebook editions and will be released on Wednesday, February 8, 2012.

However, while you wait, enjoy the Prologue.

Catherine McKenzie: Why I Write

January 18, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Although Canadian author Catherine McKenzie’s debut novel was a national bestseller in Canada, SPIN is finally being launched here in the U.S. on Tuesday, February 7, 2012. That’s great news for all readers since it was praised by Publishers Weekly as:

“[A] charming debut…With fresh, fast-paced storytelling and a personable, self-deprecating protagonist, McKenzie whirls a perfectly indulgent tale.”

Arranged, the author’s second novel, will also have a U.S. publication on May 15, 2012.

Catherine was born and raised in Montreal, Quebec, where she now practices law. An avid runner and skier, she also sits on various boards and professional organizations, and has taught part-time at the McGill Faculty of Law. However, in today’s guest post, she explains and shares why she writes.]

Why I Write

A while ago, an author friend of mine, who was feeling a bit of writing ennui, expressed the possibility of giving it all up. He was tired of the late nights writing after his day job, and since his books, while critically acclaimed, weren’t selling as well as Dan Brown’s, he wondered why he was putting in all this effort. “I’m not doing this for my ego,” he said, and those words have stuck with me ever since.

They’ve stuck with me though I admit that my first reaction was skepticism. My first book had just come out, and if I’m being honest, the month of January, 2010 was pretty full of ego. (In fact, I dubbed it “the month of me” and was thoroughly sick of myself by February). But at that moment, I remember thinking that the whole act of publishing a book—from writing, to getting an agent, to getting a book deal—had to be at least partially about ego.

And of course it is. But the more I thought about it, and the further I got past my own publication date, I began to understand what he meant. You see, that first novel, that first real novel that you get the agent and the book deal with, that novel isn’t written because of ego. I suspect it might be a little different in every case, but in my own, that novel was written because I couldn’t help myself. It was (often) all I could think about. What was this character going to do? How was I going to get from this conflict to the resolution? How was I going to get the images in my mind, seemingly so clear, down on the page when the link between my brain and my fingers often felt ephemeral. I was, in my own way, like Dylan, trying to capture “that wild mercury sound” in my head with words. And the effort, while sometimes trying and frustrating, was in the main fun.

Now it might have been hubris to think, once all the writing, editing, and endless drafts were done, that someone might want to publish this book. And I might have been seeking to gratify my ego (and have had that ego gratified) when I got an agent and a book deal. But in between those events (two years from finished manuscript to book deal, another six months to publication), there was lots and lots of rejection; lots of blows to the ego. And this mix of gratification and blows continued once my book came out. Because even if you’re Jonathan Franzen—which I make no pretension to be—there are people who dislike your book, who might even hate it. Sometimes those people are book reviewers with access to a large audience of readers. And because we live in the age of social networks and email addresses on author websites, readers can reach right out and touch you with their thoughts, negative or positive, as soon as they put your book down.

This might sound like I’m complaining. I’m not. I am aware of, and grateful for, the amazing luck I’ve had in getting not one, but two books published. But the further I’ve gotten into this process—the revisions, the worry about how the book will sell, the constant feeling that you should be promoting your book(s) somehow, all the time—it’s become less and less about ego.

And I think this trip away from ego is even more true if you’re lucky enough to have the chance to publish a second book (or anything past that first one really). Because those books often feel like they are more about contractual deadlines, and advances paid out, and expectations (real or imagined) about it being as good, or better, than your first book. It feels like it’s about justifying all of these resources being marshaled for you—the editing and marketing and publicizing. I mean, why did you get this chance, when so many others have tried just as hard, or harder, or longer, and failed?

Thoughts like these don’t feed a writer’s ego, but they certainly can destroy it, along with the will, or sometimes the ability, to write. Because, if I’m being perfectly honest, when you’re in the middle of that vortex, you sometimes forget why you even started writing in the first place. Wasn’t this fun once? Didn’t the words fly off the page, the ideas tumbling out faster than my fingers could keep up with them?

So why? Why do I continue to write? I, among the happy few, published writers?

I don’t have all the answers, but I can say this: I write because I see and hear people that aren’t there unless I write them down. Because the fun is there, you just have to look for it sometimes.

Because I must.

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SPIN is available for Pre-order in print and ebook edition.

The Revealing of Sarah McCoy

January 17, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Author Sarah McCoy (The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico) draws upon the unlikely connection between her past (Germany) and present (El Paso, Texas) residences to create the historical novel, The Baker’s Daughter available next Tuesday, January 24th.

Here are a few selections of glowing praise for the book:

“A beautiful, heart-breaking gem of a novel written just the way I like them, with the past coming back to haunt the present, endearing heroines and a sunny, hopeful ending. You’ll wolf it up in one delicious gulp.”
–Tatiana de Rosnay, international bestselling author of Sarah’s Key and A Secret Kept

“A sensitive, multilayered novel, this is a moving examination of the effect war and the politics of exclusion, have on the human heart.”–Amanda Hodgkinson, New York Times bestselling author of 22 Brittania Road

“A haunting and beautiful story… Spanning sixty years, and taking on forms of human cruelty and indifference ranging from the Nazis to modern-day immigration reform, McCoy forces us to examine the choices we make. I was riveted from start to finish.”
– J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times bestselling author of Commencement and Maine

The Divining Wand has scheduled a visit from Sarah McCoy on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 but — for now — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

SARAH McCOY is author of the novel, The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She calls Virginia home but presently lives with her husband and dog, Gilbert, in El Paso, Texas. The Baker’s Daughter is her second novel. She is currently working on her next.

Interesting background, don’t you think? Well then it’s time for the following upclose and personal Q&A with Sarah to know her even better.

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. My God, I can’t do it in 8 words! I’m the lady who gets cut off by people’s answering machines. Please stay tuned: Still a work in progress. How’s that? Or Hold on tight: I’m just getting started, y’all! Does ‘y’all’ count as one word?

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Everything has a purpose. Hold tight. Have faith. Keep watch. Miracles are a breath away.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. I believe “perfect happiness” exists in every moment. We just have to open our eyes and look to find it. Even in the midst of terrible tragedy or great personal struggle, there’s the laughter of a child or the bloom of a flower. Reminders that perfect happiness is more constant and eternal than our pain.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. I’m not sure I have a greatest so much as a bunch of little fears that stand on each other’s shoulders until they look like a giant. They range from developed, strong demons to skinny, weak ones: fear of failure; burrowing animals; fear of rejection; nightmares where my teeth fall out; having my privacy invaded; fear that my dog will run into a scorpion or tarantula or rattlesnake in the backyard; worry over the safekeeping of my family and loved ones scattered so far from me; packing anxiety when traveling; fear that my husband won’t ever know the depth of my love for him… Big and small stuff I can’t control no matter how I try.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. Home. Wherever that might be at the time. Home is where my husband is, where my writing desk stands, where my puppy sleeps. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling, but part of the great appeal is the homecoming, snuggling into the quiet of my house and recounting the excitement of where I’ve just been. When I’m home, I’m happiest.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. Oh, I identify with different individuals at various points in my life journey so I’d be hard pressed to pick just one. Recently, I was in Santa Fe and took a tour of the Georgia O’Keefe Museum. I felt such a kinship to her: her passion for her art and struggle to make a way in the industry; her relationship with her husband and her work; her love for unusual spaces that whispered vibrant stories; her appreciation for the power of femininity.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. On a personal level, my mother, Eleane. I know it’s cliché but every day she never fails to be superwoman. She reminds me that love is transformative and not even the stars are out of reach. She reminds me that there is a higher power and we, a high calling.
In the writing world, Toni Morrison absolutely blows my mind. I want her to be my fairy godmother, sprinkle me with her blessings, and let me sit in her presence. As well, my dearest friend Sheri Reynolds is such a force of love and support in my life. I’ll never be able to fully tell her how much I cherish her.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. “Just.” I don’t know why I just can’t seem to get just out of my dialogue. I have to comb it out of my writing. It makes the prose drag. I blame my Virginian roots.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. Being able to lean forward and touch my toes. I know, nearly everyone on the planet has this talent and I don’t. It’s been a lifelong frustration starting with the Sit-and-Reach Test in elementary gym class. Either my arms or too short or my legs are too long, but something is off.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Writing and publishing my novels.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Being a perfectionist, Type-A, control freak.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Once I trust and consider a person a true friend, I brandish my sword to champion and defend that person. Faithful till death.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. Too often taking out my perfectionist, Type-A, control freak-dom on my husband.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. Can I cop out of this question by saying I’m just fine being who and what I am? I’ve never subscribed to the “grass is always greener” philosophy. If my grass isn’t green, I assume the neighbor’s probably isn’t either. I’ll stick with what I got.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. Are we talking physicality or personality? If we’re going with physicality then I’d say my height. People who meet me in person are always surprised by my short stature. My husband calls me his wee pocket pixie. My grandmother is about 5’ tall. My great grandmother was 4’11’’. These are the trees from which I come.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. She reigns supreme in my imagination.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. Briony from Atonement. Though technically not a villain, she’s the complex heroine that points a wrongful finger and sets tragedy in motion. You want to hate her, but you love her because she made a mistake. One terrible, youthful mistake, and haven’t we all made one or two of those? Such a great character.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. I’ll admit, I’m not much on the sports celebrities. I guess I’d pick Nadia Comaneci. I was a gymnast in my youth, and she was my ultimate. I’d ask her if she wanted to grab a cup of tea. Nothing brilliant. Now my second choice would be Landon Donovan. I’d want to meet him so I could brag to my husband, an ex-college soccer player who is absolutely obsessed with the sport.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. People who talk about nothing (the weather, the light fixtures, the salt and pepper shakers on the table—you get the picture) in an attempt to fill every moment of sweet silence.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. This is a difficult question because I don’t fancy anything as much as writing. Hmm. I’m going to go out on a limb here: according to my friend Jenna Blum, I could make a mean nickel as a gift wrapper. I do love putting together pretty packages.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Exactly what I’m doing: writing novels. I’m living my fantasy and pinch myself every day.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. 1) Loyalty, 2) Authenticity, 3) Independence

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Up until this Christmas, I would’ve said crab, but I learned you can have too much of a good thing after a week of seafood binging while back east… Shoot, who am I kidding? The answer is still king crab legs!

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. 1) “Stardust” by Nat King Cole, 2) “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas” by Johnny Mathis, 3) “Anne’s Theme” by Hagood Hardy for the film Anne of Green Gables, 4) “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore, and 5) “Amazing Grace.” (Yeah, it’s an eclectic list. Each one moves me powerfully in a different way.)

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. While I have a plethora of books I consider favorites, I’ll go with five plucked from my “fundamentals” list: 1) Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery, 2) Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare, 3) The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 4) Nine Days Queen by Karleen Bradford, 5) The Awakening by Kate Chopin. Note: Austen’s Pride and Prejudice should be in there too.

Genuine, insightful, and most thoughtful/appreciative, Sarah has a great deal to share. You can join her on Goodreads, follow her on Twitter, and become a friend/fan on Facebook.

Also, since The Baker’s Daughter becomes available in bookstores next week, you might want to “see” the author on her Book Tour.

For an extra bonus, enjoy the novel’s Prelude and Chapters One – Three.

Picture the Book:
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

January 12, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Book Trailers, Books

[If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine what a Book Trailer can tell! The feature of Picture the Book is thus offered to spotlight storylines in vivid fashion. Enjoy.]

Following the award-winning success of her debut novel, Letters From Home,Kristina McMorris once again recounts WWII in Bridge of Scarlet Leaves releasing on February 28, 2012.

The book focuses on love and loyalties tested in a country divided:

Los Angeles, 1941. Violinist Maddie Kern’s life seemed destined to unfold with the predictable elegance of a Bach concerto. Then she fell in love with Lane Moritomo. Her brother’s best friend, Lane is the handsome, ambitious son of Japanese immigrants. Maddie was prepared for disapproval from their families, but when Pearl Harbor is bombed the day after she and Lane elope, the full force of their decision becomes apparent. In the eyes of a fearful nation, Lane is no longer just an outsider, but an enemy.

When her husband is interned at a war relocation camp, Maddie follows, sacrificing her Juilliard ambitions. Behind barbed wire, tension simmers and the line between patriot and traitor blurs. As Maddie strives for the hard-won acceptance of her new family, Lane risks everything to prove his allegiance to America, at tremendous cost.

During her research on the subject, the author happened across a brief mention of approximately two hundred non-Japanese spouses who had chosen to live voluntarily in the U.S. internment camps. Stunned and fascinated by the discovery, she instantly knew it was a story that needed to be told.

Kristina’s research expeditions included: a pilgrimage to the Manzanar relocation camp, a flight on a B-17 bomber, an exploration of L.A.’s Little Tokyo, and interviews with several Japanese American WWII vets who bravely served in a secret branch of the U.S. Army, despite their families being interned back at home.

Please listen as Kristina tells you more:

(If the video doesn’t appear on your monitor, please view it here.

And now take a look at the research photo album. Clicking on a picture offers more details.

Being the American daughter of a Caucasian mother and Japanese immigrant father, Kristina McMorris brings a unique insight to the rare perspectives and real-life accounts spotlighted on the pages. Most writers can do the research, however it takes a talented writer to create an atmosphere within a book that feels authentic to the era, and Kristine has accomplished precisely that.

Bridge of Scarlet Leaves is available for Pre-order now in print or ebook edition.

Author Kim Arbor: So Why Does She Write?

January 11, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Have you ever wondered why authors write? It’s not the easiest, stress-free, or stable and secure career choice yet it remains a dream/goal shared by so many. Throughout the next weeks, months, and onward, The Divining Wand will have authors explain their personal reasons.

Introducing this series is Kim Arbor, the pen name of an award winning, New York published novelist who has both an MFA in Creative Writing and a serious addiction to gummy bears. Kim is the author of the new women’s fiction novel, His Wife and Daughters, about a congressman’s political sex scandal of twenty years ago and the effect it still has on his wife and two daughters today. His Wife and Daughters is available as an e-book on both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.]

Kim Arbor: So Why Does She Write?

When I get asked the question, “Why do you write?” my first response is usually to say that I can’t not write. I’ve used the written word to express myself in some way or another since I learned to put pen to paper and fingers to keyboard. Letters, journals, songwriting, web content, tech writing, short fiction, novels, nonfiction—I’ve done it all and can’t get enough of it.

But although it’s some kind of addiction for sure and a never-ending drive to communicate (I am, after all, a Gemini—the great communicator of the Zodiac) if I continue to think about it, I suppose I write because I’m embarking on a constant journey to try to solve, understand and attempt to explain the puzzles and complexities of human behavior. Well, what else would you expect from a college psychology major?

Last fall a study conducted by psychological researchers at the University of Buffalo concluded that readers don’t read fiction for escape or fantasy, but to connect with others. The researchers asserted that reading novels provides “the opportunity for social connection and the blissful calm that comes from being a part of something larger than oneself for a precious, fleeting moment.”

The mention of social interaction brings us to the e-word: empathy. And why shouldn’t this fulfillment of a need for a social connection also be the impetus of the fiction writer? I know it is with me.

It can be said that empathy is one of the great powers of fiction. I find it fulfilling and challenging to try and identify with a character, enter her consciousness, and explore her motivations. That’s one of the things that turns me on about writing long fiction and having the time and space to build characters that live and breathe. In attempting to make sense out of the world and the people in it through my characters, I need to fall in love with them and understand them as deeply as I possibly can.

When I create a character like Trina Brath in my new novel, His Wife and Daughters, I’m not drawing from my own life. I’ve always been puzzled and, frankly baffled, by wives of politicians who stand by their men after being humiliated by their husbands’ sex scandals. But instead of taking an exterior view of these women, throwing my hands up and stating “they’re crazy,” and feeling how there’s now way I’d ever do that, I go deeper. I look into how I’ve perhaps misunderstood these women; I try to get into their skin. I find an empathy, even a love, for my characters, which I hope will make them complex and empathetic to my readers even if they’re not necessarily the type of person we’d want to emulate.

And being empathizers in the fictional world hopefully makes us better people in the real world. Understanding others is important to everyone—readers and writers alike. And that’s a big reason why I write.

Eileen Cook Takes Pleasure in Unraveling Isobel

January 10, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Recommendations

In pushing The Divining Wand’s restart button, one has to smile at how comforting it is to be greeted by Eileen Cook’s (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy, Gnome Invasion, and Wishes for Beginners ages 9 -11) “almost” annual new release. And what a NEW release it is.

Described as: “A darkly comic novel that blends paranormal mystery and romance with humor,” Unraveling Isobel has charmed the literary critics:

“Isobel, all snark and sharp edges covering some intense vulnerability as she continuously checks in to see if she has crossed into mental illness (as her father did when she was young), is a compelling narrator.” —The Horn Book, January/February 2012

“Spine-tingling setting….Isobel’s sass and her steamy romance with her new stepbrother will help readers race toward the dramatic conclusion.” —Publishers Weekly

“This blend of paranormal romance, murder mystery and quirky, coming-of-age narrative offers tasty moments….Cook gives readers a fast-paced plot, a likable narrator, and interesting characters.” —Kirkus

Here’s what it’s all about:

Isobel’s life is falling apart. Her mom just married some guy she met on the internet only three months before, and is moving them to his sprawling, gothic mansion off the coast of nowhere. Goodbye, best friend. Goodbye, social life. Hello, icky new stepfather, crunchy granola town, and unbelievably good-looking, officially off-limits stepbrother.

But on her first night in her new home, Isobel starts to fear that it isn’t only her life that’s unraveling—her sanity might be giving way too. Because either Isobel is losing her mind, just like her artist father did before her, or she’s seeing ghosts. Either way, Isobel’s fast on her way to being the talk of the town for all the wrong reasons.

Eileen takes a walk on the dark comedic side of storytelling and emerges with a winner. Her writing has never been better, more current while also unique for this genre.

Unraveling Isobel is highly recommended for fun, lessons learned, and Eileen Cook’s snarkily lovable imagination.

Want a sneak peek? Read Chapter One.

[Please note that there is also a Kindle Edition.]