The Divining Wand

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Archive for February, 2012

The Revealing of Krys Lee

February 29, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Krys Lee grew up wanting to be an author and began her career writing poetry but, when the stories needed to be told no longer fit in a poem, she turned to short stories. Recently released, her debut collection, Drifting House, is described as:

An unflinching portrayal of the Korean immigrant experience from an extraordinary new talent in fiction.

Spanning Korea and the United States, from the postwar era to contemporary times, Krys Lee’s stunning fiction debut, Drifting House, illuminates a people torn between the traumas of their collective past and the indignities and sorrows of their present.

Beautiful, devastating, and a wake-up call for most of us, ALL critical reviewers give this book the ultimate praise as a “starred review.”

“Affecting stories about the conflicts between Korean and American culture. . . . Lee writes with a clarity and simplicity of style that discloses deep and conflicting emotions about cultural identity.”
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“…breathtaking debut…Readers in search of exquisite short fiction beyond their comfort zone—groupies of Jhumpa Lahiri … and Yoko Tawada …—will thrill to discover Drifting House.”
Library Journal (Starred Review)

“In this sublime debut collection spanning both Koreas and America, protagonists locked in by oppressive social forces struggle to break free in original ways, each unexpected denouement a minor miracle or a perfect tragedy. . . . The author’s imaginative metaphors and easy rhythmic variances are unerring, carrying the reader effortlessly. . . . The limpid, naturalistic prose and the flawless internal logic of these stories are reminiscent of the best of Katherine Anne Porter and Carson McCullers.”
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

The Divining Wand has scheduled another feature on Krys Lee for Tuesday, March 13, 2012 but, for today, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Krys Lee was born in Seoul, South Korea, raised in California and Washington, and studied in the United States and England. She was a finalist for Best New American Voices, received a special mention in the 2012 Pushcart Prize XXXVI, and her work has appeared in the Kenyon Review, Narrative magazine, Granta (New Voices), California Quarterly, Asia Weekly, the Guardian, the New Statesman, and Conde Nast Traveller, UK (forthcoming). She lives in Seoul with intervals in San Francisco.

And now it’s time to get to know Krys upclose and personal:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Busy, bountiful, broad, impassioned, emotional, and oddly still.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. I didn’t know it was my motto, but a line from my short story “A Small Sorrow” continues to resonate with me, so I’ve adopted and adapted it: The world is greater than my small sorrows.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. It would be a tent full of books and a picnic basket beside a river.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. Love.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. Anywhere but on an airplane! I’d be most at home camping or in a dark bar somewhere with good friends.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. All the anonymous people of history who didn’t feel as if they belonged, especially if they appeared to belong but didn’t—these would be my people.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. The Dalai Lama for obvious reasons. Aung San Suu Kyi is a very close second.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. ‘Excellent’. When I lived in England, and for a few years afterwards, it was always ‘brilliant’. I’ve fallen back on ‘excellent’ in the same fashion and can’t stop using it!

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. I’m currently obsessed with the art of puppets these days. I can’t explain the source of this obsession, but generally it’s healthy to follow one’s obsessions.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. Being responsible for getting a North Korean refugee to safety from the Chinese border area to South Korea will probably always remain the most important thing I’ve ever done. A distant second would be writing Drifting House, a story collection that got major publishers excited enough to begin a bidding auction between eight major publishers.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. I can be habitually self-deprecating and sometimes too critical of others, as well.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. I’m pretty honest and humble. I’m very uncomfortable with self-importance in general. We all live with the bookends of life and death, and the filling between is the meaning that we make out of our lives.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. I regret not being a grown adult before my mother passed away. There are so many things I’m able to do for her now that I just wasn’t capable of at the time.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I wouldn’t mind being a sea turtle in a protected cove off the Caribbean. They live for a long time and are beautiful, peaceful and often solitary creatures.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I’m awkward and shy as well as outgoing and social—at the same time!

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. There are many characters I love, but few I would consider my hero. I’m attracted to the flawed, solitary and sometimes charismatic outsiders that people fiction, but in life, my heroes are human rights activists and all-around enlightened human beings.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. There are many, but today it would be Humbert Humbert in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. At the moment it would be Jeremy Lin. I’d like to tell him thank you for persevering despite the setbacks and all the people and institutions that overlooked your talent.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. I am consistently dismayed and irritated by ambitious people who seek success for the sake of fame or gaining power. No one minds a bit of extra cash or respect by those whom you respect, but fame for the sake of fame is meaningless, and chasing after power for its own sake is simply dangerous. I start to suspect the wisdom of individuals who chase after such illusions.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. I’m not quite sure if I understand this, but an activity that means a great deal to me concerns human rights. The urgency of life and protecting life in small and large ways are important to me.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. I’d love to be a park ranger and spend my days in the wilderness and with the solitary, contemplative and kind people that people who work in this profession tend to be.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. I value honesty, loyalty, and a flair for telling stories.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Kimchi. If I don’t have anything spicy for a few days at a time, I start to behave rather strangely.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. The Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”, Florence + The Machine’s “Kiss with a Fist”, Sinead O’Connor’s “Three Babies” and “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got”, and Chopin’s Nocturnes.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. This list is almost random, as I have so many favorite books that 50 favorite books would be a more accurate list. Here it goes: One Hundred Years of Solitude, The Remains of the Day, Beloved, The Select Poems of John Ashberry, and Hamlet.

Passionate, empathetic, and committed to making a difference, Krys Lee has also been gifted with a natural talent for storytelling. Yet — by following her on Twitter, becoming a friend on Facebook, and reading her remarkable story collection in Drifting House — you’ll also appreciate how lovely, and down-to-earth this author is.

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Interview with Kristina McMorris on
Bridge of Scarlet Leaves

February 28, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Interviews

[In mid-January, The Divinning Wand post, Picture the Book: Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, provided a sneak peek into Kristina McMorris’ (Letters From Home) second novel, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves, releasing today to critical acclaim. Publishers Weekly declared [it] a “gripping story [that] hits all the right chords,” while Kirkus Reviews praises the book as a “sweeping yet intimate novel.”

Described in one sentence, Bridge of Scarlet Leaves tells this story: A young woman secretly elopes with her Japanese American boyfriend the night before Pearl Harbor is bombed, forever changing two families torn between sides.

A powerful, insightful read, Kristina has managed to authentically capture one of the most controversial episodes in recent American history and still entertain with a moving tale to love, forgiveness, and the endurance of the human spirit.

How was the author able to achieve such success? Hopefully the following interview will enlighten as well as pique your interest. Enjoy!]

TDW: Your journey to novelist feels serendipitous because what began as a family cookbook turned into Letters from Home. Now, having heard of another true story, you’ve written Bridge of Scarlet Leaves. Can you imagine life without these books?

K.McM.: There’s no question in my mind, as cliché as it might sound, that my life has been guided to where I am now. Just eight years ago, I was a PR Director and the owner of professional event-planning company, with no intention of ever becoming a creative writer. As you well know, I wasn’t even a reader at the time! And yet, because of inspiration from historical accounts that moved me, my life took an unexpected turn—one I wouldn’t trade for anything.

TDW: The research for BoSL is impressively detailed, how did you gain access to everything and everyone?

K.McM.: Thank you for saying that! I take a lot of pride in getting the facts “right.” To be perfectly honest, though, I’m probably one of the few historical authors who doesn’t relish the traditional research portion. Although I love having actually learned the information, highlighting info in textbooks sounds as appealing to me as a root canal. What I do enjoy is hands-on experience.

So, for BoSL, I was delighted when the Park Ranger at the Manzanar Relocation Center, who suffered through my endless list of internment questions, invited me to attend their annual pilgrimage. Similarly, when I contacted the Go For Broke Foundation, an organization devoted to educating people about Japanese American military service, they offered to arrange in-person interviews with seven WWII veterans who have since all received the Congressional Gold Medal. I’ve definitely been spoiled.

As for my Air Corps research, it’s hard to beat the thrill of flying on a restored B-17 bomber. For that one, I have my husband to thank. It was by far the best Mother’s Day gift I could imagine!

TDW: The “voice” in both novels sounds authentic for the time period, how did you manage that?

K.McM.: I often joke, given my strong draw to the era, that I must have lived through the ’40s in another life. I love the music, the fashion, and, of course, the slang. To get a good sense of dialogue, I watched many documentaries and WWII films that were touted for accuracy. Movies made in the 1940s, as it turned out, weren’t a great resource, since they often used dramatic Hollywood speak. Real letters from the war, however, including those written by my grandfather, were extremely helpful, as well as a pleasure to read.

TDW: Considering the research necessary for the storyline, I think you’re a detailed plotter…..or are you a ‘pantser’? Please describe your writing process.

K.McM.: Pantsters, in my mind, are advanced mythical creatures with an ability I can’t fathom. Needless to say, I’m a plotter. I find comfort in knowing the basics of what’s coming next. (I suppose it makes sense that I loved being an event coordinator.) When plotting a new book, I like to create an outline, roughly one sentence per chapter, before beginning. For me, this is essential for narrowing down my research load. Otherwise, with the enormity of the topic of WWII, I could end up spending six months reading intriguing yet story-irrelevant details.

TDW: What would you like readers to take away from reading BoSL?

K.McM.: Aside from being transported into another world, I hope readers gain a deep appreciation for real-life heroes they otherwise didn’t know existed, as well as newfound knowledge about history too often brushed over. On a more personal note, if the story causes them to reexamine their own values and perspectives on other cultures, I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

TDW: Since your first two novels are historical fiction, do you intend to continue writing in this genre?

K.McM.: Without question, historicals are my favorite to write. There’s something magical about stepping into an old time period, specifically when it’s based on a true account. Although the novella I just completed has a contemporary setting, a rarity for me, it links to a minor character from my debut, Letters from Home, giving the story strong ties to WWII.

TDW: What are you working on now? And when will be lucky enough to read it?

K.McM.: The novella I mentioned, titled The Christmas Collector, will be published this coming October in a holiday anthology headlined by #1 New York Times bestselling author Fern Michaels. After that, I’ll be working on my next two women’s fiction novels under contract with my publisher. So hopefully I’ll continue to share stories for a long time to come!

Although readers will have to wait for the novella, remember Bridge of Scarlet Leaves is available in bookstores and online retailers today.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Bridge of Scarlet Leaves by Kritina McMorris — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be announced here on Thursday.

The Revealing of Sarah Pinneo

February 23, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Journalist and author of The Ski House Cookbook, Sarah Pinneo turned her sights to fiction and recently became a debut novelist with the January 31, 2012 release of Julia’s Child.

The book has been described as:

A delectable comedy for every woman who’s ever wondered if buying that six-dollar box of organic crackers makes her a hero or a sucker.

JULIA’S CHILD is a warmhearted, laugh-out-loud story about motherhood’s choices: organic vs. local, paper vs. plastic, staying at home vs. risking it all.

Sound good? The critical reviewers thought so too:

“Pinneo skewers the cult of the child with an insider’s eye. A witty, well-plotted fiction debut.”

Peppered with real recipes and the kind of convincing details expected from a food writer. [A] foodie take on I Don’t Know How She Does It.

Pinneo, a cookbook author who used to work on Wall Street, has seamlessly blended her two interests into this cute fiction debut. Well written, well paced, and very absorbing.

The Divining Wand has scheduled a return visit from Sarah Pinneo on Wednesday, March 7th however — for today — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Sarah Pinneo worked in finance for more than a decade before making the transition from breadwinner to bread baker. Sarah writes about food and sustainability for lifestyle publications including The Boston Globe Magazine and Edible Communities. She has lived in Grand Rapids, MI, New York City, Ludlow, VT and now Hanover, NH, where the occasional moose or bear wanders through her yard.

And now it’s time to get to know Sarah upclose and personal:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. Writing, feeding others, laundry, errands, coffee, writing. Wine.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. “An established writer is a beginner who didn’t give up.” Note the vast difference between this and my mother’s motto: “There is a special place in heaven for women with tidy linen closets.” I hope she’s wrong.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. To paraphrase Barbara Kingsolver, a perfect day is one where I work on a novel, I cook something delicious and I play with my kids.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. I have many, and each one of them will eventually become the basis for a novel. My own life has been very lucky, so it is only in answering this question that I’m able to come up with novel plots.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. That is a very apt question, because late February in New Hampshire is not ideal. Were I whisked away to a sunny location right now, perhaps Costa Rica, I wouldn’t fight it.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. That’s a tough one to answer, because it is difficult to discern which historical figure had the tallest laundry pile. Whichever she was, I am her spiritual sister.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. Anyone who can thrive on five hours of sleep per night.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. Actually, I most frequently abuse punctuation. I’m a serial overuser of ellipses…and also emdashes—don’t you think?

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. I would love to be able to sit patiently through meetings. Or fly.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. I prefer to assume that I haven’t met it yet. But leaving Wall Street was a big decision, and I’m proud of my choice.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. I always want to plan everything six steps in advance. I have trouble living in the moment.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. I’m very good at planning things six steps in advance.

Q. What do you regret most?
A. I regret worrying. My mother always told me that worrying isn’t productive, and she’s right. But how to stop?

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I would like to be a child again. I didn’t properly appreciate the freedom of it.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. In the dictionary under “type A personality” there’s a picture of me.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Lily in The House of Mirth.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. Willoughby in Pride & Prejudice.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. I’m not sure I can even name more than three athletes. Perhaps I should have listed this under my greatest flaw.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. These days I have a lot of trouble with children who don’t behave in the car.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. I love crafting, even though I’m not very good at it. I do knit a mean dinosaur, with little spines down his tail.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Cryptographer

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

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Excellent bagels with cream cheese

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. I refuse to answer on the grounds that my ‘80s music habit will incriminate me.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, Zodiac by Neal Stephenson, Seventh Heaven by Alice Hoffman, Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen and Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen

Enjoy more of the engaging, entertaining, new novelist Sarah Pinneo by following her on Twitter, becoming a friend on Facebook, and reading Julia’s Child….yes, it has recipes!

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Announcement: The winners of Eileen Cook’s ebook Do or Di are: Dee, Alicia Marie, and Patti D. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your download emailing address and you’ll receive a copy.


The winner of Seré Prince Halverson’s The Underside of Joy is: Aimee. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly.

Also, to answer Carl’s question about subscribing to this blog: Please check the upper right hand corner where “Subscribe” is featured, click that link, then choose your options. Thank you all!

Seré Prince Halverson: Why Do I Write?

February 22, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[ In Seré Prince Halverson’s revealing Q&A, the debut author of The Underside of Joy claimed: “I became a writer because I loved to write, and I was blessed with an utter lack of any other talent.”

Today, the author digs even deeper and shares precisely why she writes. ]

Why do I write?

This question, Why do I write?, comes to me about a month after my debut novel, The Underside of Joy, was published and about twenty years after I began writing my first novel.

No, that is not a typo. That “twenty” should not have been a “two.” Although, believe me, for many years, I thought it should have been.

So if it took me twenty years to get published, you might—quite understandably—get the impression that I was a terrible writer who had no business trying to write a novel, or that I must have been playing at writing and not really working that hard at it. Or that I simply had really rotten luck.

It’s true that my writing has improved over the years, but looking back at my earlier efforts, I don’t immediately cringe or race to throw all of them into the woodstove. Before I began my first novel, I had been taking workshops and writing short stories and studying craft. I was serious about this writing thing. I got feedback from professional writers who both praised my efforts and made valuable suggestions. I subscribed to Poets & Writers and literary magazines. I read books upon books. My boys were three and six years old at the time, and I began getting up at 4:30 in the morning so I could write before their little pajama-clad feet hit the ground running.

At that time, literary magazines frowned upon simultaneous submissions, and so I mailed my short story manuscripts out one by one (in stamped manila envelopes and SASEs for return, if you’re old enough to remember those), waiting months and months before I received another rejection letter. I remember when C. Michael Curtis, the fiction editor at Atlantic Monthly, wrote me a note on a rejection slip, and I jumped around the house in glee. My first husband said, “But I thought it was a rejection.” And I said, “It is, it is! But he wrote me a note!”

I kept on writing in the wee hours of morning, through the rejections and a divorce, years as a single mom, a long-distance relationship, another marriage with two young stepdaughters—as my sons’ little pajama-clad feet grew into size thirteen basketball shoes and football cleats and a couple of smaller, daintier feet donning tap and soccer shoes joined them.

There had been one awful, very long dry spell, during and after my divorce, when I didn’t write fiction, but I kept a journal. There were times when my novel sat on the back burner simmering while I met advertising copywriting deadlines, but I’d still scribble notes about characters or plot as I tried to focus on writing a headline or tagline. I wrote three and a half novels. I got my first agent. I spoke to editors interested in my work. I had a lot of very close calls. But still, no one said Yes.

And yet, I still said yes to writing. Why?

Why do I write? Do I write so I can have my work published? Of course I wanted to be published, but if that were the primary reason, I suppose I would have quit writing years ago. Is it beyond gratifying to have my work out in the world, to receive notes from readers instead of rejection slips, to experience a dream realized? Yes, yes, and yes.

But I wrote for twenty years without all that, without a yes, and I still loved writing, even needed it, and felt lucky to have it. I never said, “That’s it! I’m outta here.” (Well, I may have said it, but I was only bluffing and my writing knew it. You could almost see the manuscript smirking, could almost hear it say, “She’ll be back.”)

So why do I write? (“Tell us, already,” I can hear you mutter…But you see, I had to write all this to find my truest answer…)

Writing takes a lot from me, but it gives more. Man, does it give. There is an optional something more that each day offers us, but we have to be willing to step across the threshold in order to receive it. For me, writing is my entrance into that more. For some, music is the doorway. For others it is the swift pounding of feet on a track or across a stage, the in and out of the breath during prayer or meditation, the rhythm of expert stitches sewn along a stretch of silk or into a human heart. For me, the doorway is the scratching of pen on paper and the tapping of my fingertips on keys. For me, that’s how the light cracks through those dark early mornings, the light that allows me to see and feel and sometimes even give that something more.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Seré Prince Halverson’s debut novel The Underside of Joy — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 8:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be announced here tomorrow.

Interview with Eileen Cook on
Her (e)Book Do or Di

February 21, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: ebooks, Interviews

[In the last four years, Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, Fourth Grade Fairy, Gnome Invasion, and Wishes for Beginners ages 9 -11, and most recent Unraveling Isobel) has been productive and prolific, entertaining adult, YA, and middle grade readers. However, at the end of January, Eileen debuted her first ebook — and first adult novel since Unpredictable — with Do or Di available on Kindle and Smashwords.

Fun, thoughtful, and poignant, Do or Di is a refreshing reading escape. Yet it caused this Fairy Godmother to wonder how long the author had this up her sleeve? To discover, all I needed to do was ask. Enjoy!]

A laugh out loud romantic comedy, from the author of Unpredictable and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood. Erin Callighan has given up on the idea of a fairy tale romance. Having dated her own version of the Seven Dwarves (including Grumpy and Sleepy), she’s letting go of the idea of Prince Charming and settling for Prince Good Enough. Erin’s focused on reaching her dream of having her own talk radio show, even if it means having to temporarily co-host with the annoying “Voice of Seattle”, Colin Stewart. To score points with her station manager, she agrees to be a part of the Positive Partnerships program that matches her with Diana, a troubled pre-teen who swears she’s channeling the spirit of the late Princess Diana. She’s supposed to be mentoring Diana, but the channeled princess has a lot to teach Erin about love and happily ever after endings.

TDW: When did you find the time to write thIS novel? UNPREDICTABLE, REVENGE, EMMA, EDUCATION, UNRAVELING, plus the FAIRY GODMOTHER series has kept you busy and in bookstores for for years, did you write in between these books?

E.C.: The original version of this book was written right after I completed Unpredictable. At that time the market for “chick lit” or any funny women’s fiction novels dried up and I couldn’t sell the book and I turned to writing YA. I’ve always loved this book and wanted to see it find it’s way into the world. One weekend I pulled it up on my computer and re-read it. With the growth of ebooks I knew I could put it up myself. I hired an editor to give me some feedback, polished the book and put it up. I’m so happy to see it out there on the virtual shelves.

TDW: Yet you’re established author, readers of all ages love you and would be thrilled to find an adult novel on the bookshelves?

E.C.: There’s been a lot of change in the publishing landscape. I’ve seen other authors go the indie route with books and I was curious to try it out. By self publishing the book I could set the price quite low at $2.99. Heck, that’s less than buying a latte! By having a book that is low in cost it tempts people who haven’t read my books before to give it a try and hopefully then become interested in my other books. For readers who know they like my book this becomes a way to say thank you.

TDW: For your YA novels, inspiration/backstory is taken from a “classic,” so did you follow the same pattern here?

E.C.: The inspiration for this book was a chance to tap into the fascination I had with Princess Diana. When I was young I got up at dawn to see her wedding and thought it was the most romantic story ever. As I grew up watching her marriage and eventual divorce I realized that love isn’t about fairy tales. She was such an iconic figure for women that I wanted a chance to write a character who has a connection to her. Erin in the book has given up on love and romance. She needs to discover that love, real love, isn’t always pretty, but it does last.

TDW: Astrology, magic, the supernatural and, now, channeling are elements woven into your storylines. In first glance of your books’ synopses, a reader might think you’re writing fairy tales and yet these mystical powers are actually used to support the true power of human strengths and talents. Is this the theme or end goal?

E.C.: People are fascinated with magic and the supernatural. While I agree it is fun, I want to show that the real magic in the world isn’t supernatural, it’s everyday. Real magic is how you feel when you see someone you love, how roses bloom, the sounds dogs make when they dream. We need to open our eyes and see the magical things all around us and also the power that we have to impact change in our own lives.

TDW: Where did the fresh workplace setting of a radio station come from? Was there much research needed?

E.C.; I’ve been fortunate enough to do some readings on CBC, Canada’s version of National Public Radio. The first time I went I was enthralled with the whole process, the chance to wear giant headphones, the call board the entire idea of being live. I was quite certain I would be struck with Tourette’s once the microphone went on. I ended up asking lots of questions and even took some pictures of the space on my phone. I had a sense it would end up in a book someday.

TDW: Although Do or Di is an adult novel, you wrote Diana — a YA character — in almost a co-starring role. It worked so well. Was that your initial intention?

E.C.: When I wrote the initial draft of the book Diana did not have as large of a role. Now years later I’ve written several YA books and enjoy writing teen characters. When I pulled the book out I realized that Diana had a lot to say and that her having a larger role would enhance the book and give it some balance. Erin is skeptical, but Diana represents hope. They need each other to move forward. Erin needs to rediscover the magic in her life and Diana needs to be balanced out with reality.

TDW: Can we look forward to more adult novels from you in the future?

E.C.: In the process of re-working this book I realized how much I enjoyed writing for an adult audience. There will be more adult books- just as soon as I figure out what that winning idea is going to be.

To experience instant pleasure in reading Do or Di, simply download the book from Kindle or Smashwords.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Eileen Cook’s Do or Di — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 8:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winners will be announced here on Thursday.

Picture the Book: MWF Seeking BFF:
My Year Long Search for a New Best Friend

February 16, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Book Trailers, Books

In relocating to Chicago writer/editor Rachel Bertsche almost had it all: a newlywed husband, elite writing credits, loving family and friends….who now, alas, lived too far away. And, though the love of her life was her best friend, he was a guy! Rachel needed a new girl friend and thus began her organized quest chronicled in her debut, MWF Seeking BFF: My Year Long Search for a New Best Friend.

And through sharing her pursuit, she also found praise:

“Friendship is one of the most important elements of a happy life—but it can be tough to make new friends. In MWF Seeking BFF, Rachel Bertsche weaves together her engaging and often hilarious adventures in search of a new best friend with the latest research about the science of friendship. I couldn’t put it down.”—Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project

“Reading about Rachel Bertsche’s search for that special someone, you’ll find yourself thinking about all the friends you’ve ever had—and the ones you hope are right around the corner. Rachel writes with engaging humor and a measure of poignancy, too. You’ll enjoy joining her on her journey.” —Jeffrey Zaslow, author of The Girls from Ames

“Rachel Bertsche’s yearlong diary of searching for best friendship in a new city is compulsively readable and will plant a smile on your face as you turn the pages. Funny, forthright, and honest as a midnight phone call, Bertsche’s zesty hosanna to female bonding defines what it is to be a double-X Millennial.” —Sheila Weller, author of Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon—and the Journey of a Generation
“I guess you could say Rachel had me at ‘Hello’ — I found myself totally invested in her honest, earnest, oftentimes hilarious quest for meaningful female friendship. Whether you’re actively seeking a ‘BFF’ yourself or simply recognize the value in making quality connections with other women, MWF Seeking BFF underscores the profound rewards we women stand to reap when we simply open up, reach out to one another, and go for it. A smart, fun, and inspiring page turner that will surely resonate.”—Kelly Valen, author of The Twisted Sisterhood

An introduction:

When Rachel Bertsche first moves to Chicago, she’s thrilled to finally share a zip code, let alone an apartment, with her boyfriend. But shortly after getting married, Bertsche realizes that her new life is missing one thing: friends. Sure, she has plenty of BFFs—in New York and San Francisco and Boston and Washington, D.C. Still, in her adopted hometown, there’s no one to call at the last minute for girl talk over brunch or a reality-TV marathon over a bottle of wine. Taking matters into her own hands, Bertsche develops a plan: She’ll go on fifty-two friend-dates, one per week for a year, in hopes of meeting her new Best Friend Forever.

In her thought-provoking, uproarious memoir, Bertsche blends the story of her girl-dates (whom she meets everywhere from improv class to friend rental websites) with the latest social research to examine how difficult—and hilariously awkward—it is to make new friends as an adult. In a time when women will happily announce they need a man but are embarrassed to admit they need a BFF, Bertsche uncovers the reality that no matter how great your love life, you’ve gotta have friends.

Now Picture the Book:

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

Ah yes, there’s also an Excerpt.

Rachel Bertsche’s need for a friend is universal and her insights into how, when, why, where are spot-on. However it’s no wonder since the author’s work has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, Marie Claire, More, Teen Vogue, Seventeen, Every Day with Rachael Ray, Fitness, Women’s Health, New York, Huffington Post,, and more.

Follow her on Twitter and visit her daily blog,MWF Seeking BFF, where you might just find a new friend too. Enjoy!

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Announcement: The winner of Erika Liodice’s Empty Arms is: Melissa. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address.

Erika Liodice: Why I Write

February 15, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Given Erika Liodice’s success in writing/publishing her debut novel Empty Arms in Kindle Edition, NOOK Book and Paperback, one might think that becoming an author was a childhood dream. Yet, in today’s guest post, Erika tells how her journey to novelist began on the path to self-discovery.]

Why I Write

Growing up I often heard people say, “I found myself at college.” It led me to the delusion that finding oneself was some sort of transcendental experience involving rays of light and smoke clouds of wisdom that could envelop you right in the middle of a keg stand or flaming Dr. Pepper shot. I wish someone would’ve warned me that my metamorphosis was going to be dark and lonely…and take my entire 20s.

But they didn’t. So I ventured off to college and waited patiently for my lightning bolt realization. To my disappointment, the only thing I learned about myself during those four years was how incredibly hard I had to work just to keep my head above water.

Always the optimistic, I figured that my grand discovery would come during my summer backpacking trip through Europe. After all, I’ve had an insatiable wanderlust ever since I first set foot on an airplane when I was six years old, so wouldn’t it be appropriate for my magical epiphany to happen while I was surrounded by rich cultures, exotic foods, romantic languages, and soul-stirring views?

You’d think. Instead, the only thing I learned about myself during those six weeks was how short my fuse can be when I’m overly hot, overly tired, or overly hungry. I returned home no closer to understanding what made me tick or what I had to offer the world. My “truth” eluded me.

With no clear direction of what I wanted, I accepted a well-paying entry-level job at a reputable pharmaceutical company. Since I hadn’t found myself in college or in Europe, I hoped that ascending the rungs of the corporate ladder would hold the answer.

And so I began the climb. I got promoted, chased higher salaries, and even switched companies a few times, desperately trying to uncover the missing ingredient that many of my friends and colleagues had found. Everyone around me seemed happy with their titles, salaries, and job responsibilities, but meanwhile I had the nagging sense that my life was slipping by.

Eventually, I gave up on the notion of finding myself and focused instead on finding happiness. In my free time, I took classes that interested me: graphic design, photography, commercial arts, sculpture, sewing, Pilates. I joined a book club. I taught myself how to cook. I volunteered. I even dragged my non-religious butt to church and studied the Bible. Happiness came in dribs and drabs, but it never stuck around for very long.

Then one day, my husband came home from work and told me a story that nearly brought me to tears. Out of nowhere, the desire to write a novel bowled me over. I started that very day. Thinking it would probably end up being another one of my “flavor of the month” creative undertakings, I didn’t pay it much mind. But then that day turned into a week, and that week turned into a month, and soon I was waking up at 5 a.m. so I could write for two hours before work. A couple of years later, I had a manuscript. A few years after that, I had another.

In the end, I didn’t find myself at college or while backpacking through Europe or while working in Corporate America. I found myself in those cold, dark hours of the morning hunched before the glow of my computer. It taught me that I am a writer. That is my truth. That is what brings me happiness.

That is why I write.

“Knowing thyself is the height of wisdom.”
– Socrates

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Erika Liodice’s Empty Arms — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 8:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be announced here tomorrow.

Dee DeTarsio’s Valentine to Marian Keyes

February 14, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade and ROS) wears her favorite author’s heart on her sleeve. As a result, in this Valentine’s Day guest post, Dee takes the opportunity to explain/share her feelings of “reader love.”]

This Is Dedicated to The One I Love

“To Marian Keyes – and to the Marian Keyes in every woman – that smart, funny, sad, put-upon, brave part of your soul that makes this world a brighter place.”

I am stalking Marian Keyes. She’s a Virgo, I’m a Virgo. She’s a successful internationally recognized goddess of an author, and I … well, I’ve read everything she’s ever written. I expect we would be best friends. Her most excellent Ms. Keyes is from Ireland – I love the color green. From her first book, Watermelon, (my seventh favorite fruit) to Sushi for Beginners, (I’m only up to California rolls myself) to Anybody Out There — I have loved, read, and reread every word. We are practically sisters.

Goddess Marian Keyes (pictured left) … and her doppelganger, my sister, Beezer, who I sometimes call an eejit!

There is good news on the horizon: Marian Keyes is coming out with a new book–a cookbook, (or cookery as Marian and I like to call it) Saved by Cake, to be released February 16, 2012.

“Saved by Cake” gives an extremely honest account of Marian Keyes’ recent battle with depression, and how baking has helped her. A complete novice in the kitchen, Marian decided to bake a cake for a friend and that was it – she realized that baking was what she needed to do in order to get her through each day. And so she baked, and she wrote her recipes down, and little by little the depression has started to lift, along with her sponges…With chapters on cupcakes, cheesecakes, meringues and macaroons, chocolate cakes, fruit cakes and favourite classics, Marian’s recipes are aimed firmly at beginner bakers, offering hints and tips to help along the way.

There is icing on that cake–rumor has it that Marian Keyes also has a new novel coming out this Fall–featuring the youngest Walsh sister, Helen!

Oh my gosh. I have an apron that looks almost like Marian’s. (I am such a gobshite!)

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The Revealing of Seré Prince Halverson

February 09, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

According to debut novelist, Seré Prince Halverson: “I became a writer because I loved to write, and I was blessed with an utter lack of any other talent.”

If true, what a gift the author’s one talent is as it shines through her recently released The Underside of Joy. A one sentence description of the book notes:

Set against the backdrop of Redwood forests and shimmering vineyards, Seré Prince Halverson’s compelling debut tells the story of two women, bound by an unspeakable loss, who each claims to be the mother of the same two children.

Deservedly earned glowing praise:

“Halverson’s gloriously down-to-earth novel is so pitch perfect that as readers reluctantly reach the last page, wanting more, they will have to take it on faith that this really is her first fiction.”–Library Journal, Starred Review

“…As she mines the family secrets her characters hold close and how those affect their relationships with one another, Halverson proves she’s a wordsmith and a storyteller to keep an eye on.”–Bookpage, Fiction Top Pick

“A poignant debut about mothers, secrets and sacrifices…Halverson avoids sentimentality, aiming for higher ground in this lucid and graceful examination of the dangers and blessings of familial bonds.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Halverson paints a lovely picture of small-town life and intimate family drama…Nuanced characters and lack of cliché make for a winning debut.”–Publishers Weekly

“Halverson’s debut novel marks her as a strong new voice in women’s fiction…this would make an excellent book-club choice.”–Booklist

The Divining Wand has scheduled a return visit from Seré Prince Halverson on Wednesday, February 22, 2012 but — in the meantime — let’s meet the author through her “official” bio….in her own words.

I am from a lot of places, but I now live in Northern California and it feels like home. I worked for 20 years as a freelance copywriter while I wrote fiction and raised kids. My husband and I have four grown children. I’m a mom and a stepmom, and I have a mom and a stepmom. The Underside of Joy is my debut novel.

Piqued your interest? Let’s get to know Seré even better:

Q. How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A. This crazy plot finally seems to be working.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?
A. Never, never, never, never give up. (Via my dear friend Elle Newmark, via Winston Churchill)

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?
A. I don’t think the most genuine happiness is perfect. Hence, the title of my book! That said, my yellow Lab, Stuart, seems to experience pure, perfect happiness when chasing a tennis ball. And I feel something close to it when watching him.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?
A. The same as any mother’s fear.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A. I love many different places, but I feel most at home right here in the writing studio my husband and family recently built for me, overlooking a forest and vineyard.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?
A. I enjoy reading journals and biographies of writers. No matter their gender, or the time period, I can almost always identify with some aspect of their lives and struggles. John Steinbeck’s Journal of a Novel, for one.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?
A. I stand in awe of teachers.

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?
A. Just, Very, Um, So, Wonderful. I know! Really? Really! And then a couple of the four-letter variety, which I just really should stop saying.

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A. Oh, to be able to sing and to speak several languages! My novel will be published in 13 languages, and I’m thrilled because that’s the closest I’ll ever come to being multi-lingual.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?
A. The Underside of Joy. And my kids. (I don’t think I “achieved” them, but I’m very proud of them.)

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?
A. Disorganization: My purse, my closet, my desk, my computer, my mind. My kitchen cupboards, however, aren’t bad. I have no idea why they’ve escaped the madness.

Q. What’s your best quality?
A. Empathy

Q. What do you regret most?
A. That I wasn’t able to publish my novel before my dad died. He would have gotten such a kick out of this.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A. I like being me, even though it can be, shall we say, challenging.

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?
A. I don’t think there’s any one thing…but I do smile a lot.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A. Cal/Calliope in Middlesex

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A. The Grinch. I know that’s not very literary sounding, but he’s my favorite.

Q. If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A. Joe Montana. “Hi Joe, you look just like my husband’s Joe Montana Christmas tree ornament. Are you up for surprising your biggest fan?”

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?
A. The toilet seat thing. Left up afterward or down during and—ugh—wet afterward. Come on, guys. And drivers who tail too closely, especially on dark, rainy, twisty roads with deer crossing signs posted everywhere. Back off. And please click down your brights. Thank you very much.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A. Reading or going for a walk.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?
A. Other than being a novelist? Singer/Songwriter

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A. Honesty, compassion, and a sense of humor.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A. Dungeness crab. Fortunately, my husband likes to go crabbing. That’s if you mean only one ingredient. If you mean one type of food, I’d say sushi. I get serious, debilitating sushi cravings.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?
A. Five is an impossible number. I have so many favorite songs. I might have to slip in an extra and hope you don’t notice.
2,000 Miles by The Pretenders
This Must be the Place by Shawn Colvin (Talking Heads cover)
Closer to Fine by Indigo Girls (Almost anything by the Indigo Girls.)
Anchorage by Michelle Shocked
I Hope That I Don’t Fall in Love with You by Tom Waits
Circle Game by Joni Mitchell

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A. Again, only five? You use the word “five” loosely, right?
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery (When I was nine, I went to Green Gables, the home where L.M. Montgomery wrote, and I bought the book in the gift shop and still have it.)
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Boys of My Youth by Jo Ann Beard

Genuinely warm and wonderfully honest, Seré is a gorgeous storyteller. Discover more of these truths by becoming a friend on Facebook, visit her blog Who Moved My Buddha?, sample an excerpt from the book’s Chapter One, and then continue reading The Underside of Joy.

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Announcement: The winner of Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters is: Janel. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address.


The winner of Julianna Baggott’s PURE is: Candice. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address.

Julianna Baggott: Why I Write

February 08, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[Julianna Baggott (complete listing of her books) is an author who writes across genres, believing they complement rather than are separate from each other.

Available today is the author’s riveting, breakout novel PURE — the first volume in her post-apocalypse thriller trilogy. It’s based on Julianna’s background of magical realism. That is what she writes and, in this guest post, she explains why.]

Why I Write

I’m answering this question late at night — in a usually loud house now quiet. The kids are asleep in bedrooms nearby. My husband is in asleep downstairs, my parents in the guest room, the dogs on dog pillows out for the night. It’s dark except for this glow.

I’m here as a moth, batting against light.

I’m here because I’ve learned that writing – this twitch of my fingers – is really rooted deep inside of me. It’s a way of running your hands through the reeds, the silt – the kind of silt still clouding the day, the kind settled (like memory) waiting to be stirred.
I’m here because my mind has things to run through.

I’m here because this is a place I’ve come to know. The white page, patient as snow.

I’m here because I’ve lived this day as a writer – meaning I’ve lived doubly. I’ve lived it as myself and I’ve lived it to pull from it what I need to remake a world. Or, no, I’ve spent the day collecting and now I have these things to shine up and set against each other.

I’m here to make. I have the human desire to create something from nothing.

The day’s done, but I’m not done with it. I miss it already. I long for what’s slipped by. I want to keep. I’m here because I hoard the days. I hoard our fragile lives.

I write because sometimes there are too many words to keep up with. They’re noisy. They churn in the chest like a motor.

Where else would I go? What else would I do?

I’m here because the world itself doesn’t do what I want it to do. In fact, it’s unruly, unpredictable.

I’m here because when in deep, that unruly world (that brutal world) slips away. I am immersed. I’ve found warm water. There’s the silt again.

I’m here writing because I want to give something. I want to be put to good use. Here, I say, here and here. Fistfuls. Any use?

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Book Giveaway: To celebrate the release day of PURE, The Divining Wand will give away one copy of the book — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post before the deadline of 8:59 p.m. EST tonight! If you enter, please return tomorrow when the winners of both Book Giveaways will be announced.