The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Archive for the ‘Books’

Picture the Book:
The Song Remains the Same

March 08, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Book Trailers, Books

“What if” Allison Winn Scotch (The One That I Want, Time of My Life, and The Department of Lost and Found) — whose writing is naturally inspired by music — crafted a novel that revolves around how deeply music affects/recalls memory? Fortunately the NYT bestselling author has done just that and her fourth novel, The Song Remains the Same will be released next month on Thursday, April 12, 2012.

Part-thriller/mystery, the book questions and answers:

Who are we without our memories? And how much of our future is defined by our past?

A brief synopsis:

One of only two survivors of a plane crash, Nell Slattery wakes in the hospital with no memory of the crash – or who she is, or was. Now she must piece together both body and mind — with the help of family and friends who have their own agendas. She filters through photos, art, music and stories, hoping something will jog her memory, and soon – in tiny bits and pieces –Nell starts remembering…
It isn’t long before she learns to question the stories presented by her mother, her sister and business partner, and her husband. In the end she will learn that forgiving betrayals small and large will be the only true path to healing herself — and to finding happiness.

And, of course, the wonderful reviews:

“Bestseller Winn Scotch sparkles in her captivating fourth novel. Readers will love Nell and won’t be able to put the book down until they know how much of her past she wants to bring into her future.”– Publishers Weekly

“Readers who appreciate women’s fiction that investigates serious themes will enjoy Scotch’s fine novel. Reading groups will find much to discuss as well.” – Library Journal

“A devastating portrait of one woman’s struggle to regain her memory. Allison Winn Scotch’s novel The Song Remains the Same takes on fascinating emotional terrain — the decision between dredging up the past, or wiping the slate clean and starting over. I can’t remember becoming so engrossed in a novel so quickly or feeling so satisfied at the end.”
– Elin Hilderbrand, bestselling author of SILVER GIRL and THE ISLAND

“Who would we be without our memories, good and bad? This funny, poignant, and absorbing page-turner raises that question and many others, about the nature of love, trust, family and friendship. I’m still thinking about the main character and her surprising journey long after I turned the final page.”
–J. Courtney Sullivan, author of COMMENCEMENT and MAINE

“From the first pages of THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, I was hooked. Nell is a heroine you will cheer for; and long remember after finishing the book!”
– Lauren Weisberger, bestselling author of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA

As for my truth: In THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME, Allison has written the ultimate “what if?” by wiping her heroine’s mind clean. Nell can start over and become a “fabulous me.” Yet memories cannot be erased from one’s heart, especially when music triggers emotional recall and pulls Nell back to the past in order to understand her present. Writing stronger than ever — with brilliant insight –, the author risks telling a darker story of survival filled with courage and hope in discovering one’s truth.

To further pique your interest while not divulging any *spoilers* of Nell Slattery’s story, this Fairy Godmother decided to Picture the Book through three musical videos of songs chosen by the author. The very first page of the book contains the protagonist’s playlist and can be enjoyed here. However why not be entertained by the following selections and explanations?

AWS: Joe Cocker: Have a Little Faith in Me.
This is really one that embodies the spirit of the book as a whole. There’s a reason that it’s the first song and the first musical reference that Nell hears. (And yes, I know that there’s a John Haitt version, but I didn’t think many people would know it if I opted for that version!)

(If the video is not visible on your monitor, please view it here.)

AWS: Carly Simon:Let the River Run
This song, for me, is about embracing freedom and well, letting your own river run. Again, this is a pivotal song for Nell, and I must have filtered through a hundred different options before settling on this one. It needs to be really representative of her emotional state when she first hears it, and then again, when it comes back into her life.

(If the video does not appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

AWS: Van Morrison: Into the Mystic
This song is so deeply representative of childhood and innocence that I absolutely felt compelled to include it in the book. I know that the lyrics themselves aren’t overtly about anything related to childhood, but for me and for Nell, the song really encapsulates those long summer days when you didn’t have a care in the world.

(If the video does not appear on your monitor, please view it here.)

CHAPTER ONE of The Song Remains the Same can be read now and then the book can be Pre-ordered. Enjoy….you will!

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Announcement: The winner of Sarah Pinneo’s Julia’s Child is: Keetha. Congratulations! Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly.

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.

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.

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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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.

Eleanor Brown: Why I Write

February 07, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Books, Guest Posts

[Last January 20, 2011, Eleanor Brown debuted with her “delightful” novel The Weird Sisters (presentation/review) and, within a week, she became a New York Times bestselling author. Amazing? Well actually the story of “sibling rivalry, the power of books, and the places we decide to call home” deserved every bit of acclaim and attention.

For those who have yet to enjoy this reading experience, today is your day as The Weird Sisters is released in its paperback edition. Also Eleanor begins another Book Tour….if she’s scheduled for your hometown, treat yourself to a meeting/signing for this talented novelist who shares why she writes.]

Why I Write

Like many American girls, I spent much of middle school on the phone, chatting with my friends. It seems ridiculous now, in this age where email and texting have proven themselves much more efficient forms of communication, but I suppose that was the point. We weren’t interested in efficiency, my friends and I. We were talking things through, asking each other questions about things we liked (Duran Duran) and didn’t like (gym class), considering the possibilities of our lives: boys we might be interested in, homework assignments we had yet to tackle, plays and sports we might try out for, and the unfathomable distant future of adulthood.

In his novella, The Body, on which the movie Stand by Me was based, Stephen King’s narrator says, “I never had any friends later on like the ones I had when I was twelve. Jesus, did you?” I actually do still have friends like the ones I had when I was twelve – I even have a few of the same ones – but our friendships are not the same. The idea of having enough long, empty hours to fill with meandering conversation seems indulgent, and we have, at this point in our lives, a less pressing need to discuss Duran Duran.

But I do still find myself with the kind of questions of identity and meaning I had when I was twelve, though I am better able to articulate and label them as such. And since my friends and I cannot talk those questions through on a daily basis, I must try to work out the answers myself.

And so, I write.

When I began writing The Weird Sisters, I was turning thirty, and, in the way that those decade birthdays have, it was shaking my faith in the status quo. That question I had mused over with such idle curiosity as a teenager – what was I going to be when I grew up? – now seemed terrifying and imminent, if not woefully overdue. And so I created three sisters, split my confusion and my personality traits among them, and set out to write my way out of my precocious midlife crisis. All the things I was wondering about came out in that book: What does it mean to be an adult? Why are family roles so persistent, so impossible to change? How do you relate to your parents when you are an adult? Why do I always feel like a failure? Can you change the person you always thought you were?

Those are big questions, and I can’t say I resolved them all in the pages of The Weird Sisters, but writing that book did give me a great blessing: it forced me to spend time with each one, often more than was comfortable. I faced mistakes I’d made, people I’d hurt, the way I had been careless with my own heart, all through the problems of these fictional sisters. I held each question to the light like a gem and watched the light reflecting off it until I had considered all its facets. And if I didn’t find the answers to the questions, I do think I found peace in them.

The page has infinite patience. It lets me say ridiculous things and then retract them a moment later without judgment. It allows me to change my mind at will, to wander off on seemingly unrelated tangents and then circle back around to find the perfect thing to say. It is as broad and as narrow as I need it to be at any moment.

Someone asked me recently why I read, and my answer was instantaneous: to understand, and to connect. And I think these are the same reasons I write. In stories, as both a reader and a writer, I am trying on lives, meeting new people, learning. I am twelve, lying on the linoleum of the kitchen floor, the phone cord twisted around my finger, talking my way through the mysteries of life with my closest friends.

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ATTENTION: Please remember that Catherine McKenzie’s debut novel SPIN makes its U.S. launch today.

Book Giveaway: In celebration of paperback release day for The Weird Sisters, 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 8:59 p.m. EST tonight! The winner will be announced here on Thursday.

Picture the Book:
The Mother-Daughter Show

February 02, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Book Trailers, Books

Natalie Wexler is the author of an award-winning novel, A More Obedient Wife, and a journalist and essayist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post Magazine, the American Scholar, the Gettysburg Review, and other publications. Her latest novel, The Mother-Daughter Show, was published in December, 2011, to glowing praise:

“A terrific read. Funny and heartbreaking and so credible I laughed out loud.” Susan Shreve, author of Warm Springs: Traces of a Childhood at FDR’s Polio Haven.

“A wise and lively look at real grown-ups, alleged adults, and women-in-training. The setting is perfect for Natalie Wexler’s satire.” Susan Isaacs, author of As Husbands Go.

“Every page of this very contemporary page-turner is written with a heartfelt, humorous touch, with characters so vivid and real, they came to feel like friends I’d known forever.” Rachel Simon, author of The Story of Beautiful Girl.

“Witty and wise throughout, The Mother Daughter Show highlights Natalie Wexler’s keen perceptions–of family dynamics, social mores, and professional subcultures–and reminds us of life’s one constant: change.” Erika Dreifus, author of Quiet Americans.

A brief description of The Mother-Daughter Show:

At Barton Friends a D.C. prep school so elite its parent body includes the President and First Lady – three mothers have thrown themselves into organizing the annual musical revue. Will its Machiavellian intrigue somehow enable them to reconnect with their graduating daughters, who are fast spinning out of control? By turns hilarious and poignant, The Mother Daughter Show will appeal to anyone who’s ever had a daughter – and anyone who’s ever been one.

Now Picture the Book.

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

What was the author’s inspiration for the novel? Natalie Wexler explains:

“I wrote The Mother Daughter Show partly to try to maintain a sense of humor about a situation I found myself in—the real Mother Daughter Show, a longstanding tradition at Sidwell Friends School, where my daughter was a senior. Every year the mothers of graduating senior girls write and perform a musical revue for their daughters, and it seems like almost every year peculiar things happen between the mothers. I wanted to understand why—what was it about this situation that made people act in ways they usually don’t? One obvious possible reason was that the senior year of high school is a stressful year, for mothers as well as daughters: there’s the pressure of applying to college, the stress of wondering where your child will get in, and the emotions stirred by the prospect of your precious little girl leaving the nest.

So I wanted to explore that, but I also saw the novel as an opportunity to write more broadly about the mother-daughter relationship. I gave each of my three main characters a mother of her own as well as a teenage daughter, to allow for a multi-generational aspect to the book.”

As was mentioned, there’s a personal connection to the story since both Ms. Wexler’s two children are graduates of Sidwell Friends School. Therefore how much of the book is drawn from real life?

According to the author, “In terms of the details, not that much. To some extent I’m satirizing things that probably go on in any private school milieu (although as far as I’m aware, Sidwell is the only school that has a Mother Daughter Show). Of course, there’s a Washington, D.C. aspect that’s distinctive—for instance, a President’s daughter attends my fictional school, and the Obama girls currently attend Sidwell. But the Presidential daughter in the novel, who is an extremely minor character, is clearly not Sasha or Malia, any more than any of the characters are real people.

What I did borrow from real life about that situation is the excitement surrounding the presence of the First Family at the school, at least when they first got there (the novel begins in February 2009). In the book, tickets to the annual auction and the school play sell at an unprecedented rate, because people think the President and First Lady might show up. That really happened, more or less. Of course, as in the book, the President didn’t end up attending many school functions, apparently because he was a little preoccupied with trying to solve the nation’s problems.”

A satirical, absorbing read with compelling characters and a dishy setting,The Mother-Daughter Show offers a uniquely entertaining selection for you and/or your reading group.

Have a sneak peek with this Book Excerpt. Enjoy!

Guest Danielle Younge-Ullman on Inspiration

February 01, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: ebooks, Guest Posts

[Danielle Younge-Ullman debuted in July 2008 with Falling Under (do read presentation/review) — a book this Fairy Godmother described as painfully breathtaking and brutally exquisite. And it remains so in its Kindle Editon and NOOK Book format.

Today, in this guest post, the author focuses on her inspiration for the novel, and what makes the story passionately honest.]


It’s kind of a pretty word, a word that suggests something beautiful, like a butterfly landing on your fingertip, or a beam of sunlight bursting from the clouds.

But I was mad when I wrote FALLING UNDER. Furious, in fact. And the issues I was furious about are what sparked and drove the writing of the book.

Inspiration didn’t come to me like a butterfly, in other words, or even a beam of sunlight. More like a burning astroid, or a Mac truck.

The thing I was on about, and angry about, is what happens to kids when their parents divorce, particularly when those parents cease to function as parents, leaving the kids to navigate the world on their own…to essentially parent themselves.

Here’s a short excerpt from Chapter Sixteen that will give you an example. (My protagonist, Mara, has just been kicked out of her mother’s house.)

“The morning you arrive with your huge suitcase, Dad tries the heart-to-heart, but it’s not helpful to have him rant about what a bitch Mom is and then punch the wall beside the fridge, get hammered that night, and refuse to go to work the next day.

Certain kinds of support are worse than none at all.”

Sure, divorce is an everyday kind of tragedy these days. And yes, kids are elastic, adaptable, they survive. Sometimes they adapt so well on the surface that nobody sees how deeply and profoundly their view of the world has changed; how hurt they are, how alone they feel, how much more precarious everything seems to them, how much less they trust.

Mara, is a sensitive kid, a smart kid, a funny kid, and also a survivor. But the decisions she makes, as a result of having no stability and no parental figures she can trust or go to for guidance, are not often the best. The results are sometimes hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, often both. And Mara grows up to be a mass of contradictions and unfulfilled potential—so afraid of the world that she can barely leave her house most days, stuck in a horrible artistic and professional rut, and burdened by a past littered with disastrous romantic (and sexual) relationships.

Mara’s adult life is consistent with what studies and statistics say, which is that many of the effects of divorce become evident only when a child reaches adulthood and confronts adult relationships. These are conflicted people who’ve had to rely on themselves, and don’t necessarily know how to function in a trusting relationship. They are also (statistically) likely to be less educated, more substance-addicted, less financially stable, less emotionally and psychologically stable, more likely to marry early, more likely to divorce…and it goes on. Unfortunately these stats are true of the adult children of all divorced families, including the amicable and “good” divorces, though of course the more stability and support provided by parents, family and community, the better chances the child/grown-child has of thriving.

Think about what that means, in a society where 50% of people are getting divorced…

Now I want to be clear: I am NOT on an anti-divorce rant. There are people who shouldn’t stay together, people who can’t.

I simply wanted to tell a story that would pull people, as viscerally as possible, into Mara’s experience, so that they would understand it. I wanted to reach out to adults and young adults who have been through this and maybe wonder why they (possibly) feel screwed-up and are not coping, and let them know they’re having a normal reaction, and that they can work through it. And I wanted to reach out to parents who may have divorced, or be considering it, and give them a sense of how it might affect their children, how important it is for them to continue to provide as much stability and leadership and understanding as possible, so their kids can better cope with whatever happens.

And then, if it’s not too much to ask, I’d also like society as a whole to start doing a better job at supporting families in crisis. Because THAT would be inspiring…in the beam-of-sunlight-bursting-through-the-clouds sort of way.

* * * * *

You can follow Danielle on Twitter, friend her on Facebook, and download Falling Under on your Kindle or NOOK Book.

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…)