The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Summer’s TBR Lists

June 02, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Summertime and the living is easy. Fish are jumping and the books are piled high. A-h-h yes, summer is the best season for a reason to relax and get lost in a book. And, since summer book lists are currently being named and made, The Divining Wand decided to ask its authors:

What’s on your summer “must/want to read” list?

This week the following writers replied:

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

“I always feel like I’m playing catch up on my reading. There’s a few books that I’ve had on my to be read list, and I hope I get to them before summer. I’ve been wanting to read the new Kate Atkinson LEFT EARLY, TOOK MY DOG ever since I read her WHEN WILL THERE BE GOOD NEWS?. And I’ve been very interested to read ROOM by Emma Donoghue ever since I hear the premise. I also always have my eyes and ears open for news of Debutante Ball (past and present) books coming out. I’ve never been disappointed by the talented Debs!”

~Tanya Egan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading):

“My spring/summer must-read list includes Kim Culbertson’s INSTRUCTIONS FOR A BROKEN HEART, Therese Fowler’s EXPOSURE, Will Allison’s LONG DRIVE HOME, Rebecca Rasmussen’s THE BIRD SISTERS, and Meg Waite Clayton’s THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS (I know it’s already out, but I’m behind on the stack of books I want to read!).”

~Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“I want to read River Jordan’s new book about praying for strangers; Swallow the Ocean by Laura Flynn; and Stacy Schiff’s biography of Cleopatra.”

~Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“I am getting into the classics–I mean really. I just read Oedipus Rex for the first time and was blown away. Next is The Iliad and Odyssey. Ridiculous that I have a supposedly top-notch education and am still so ignorant. Other more modern authors in the to-read pile: Nicholson Baker, Paul Auster, David Grossman.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

“Now between deadlines, with research texts set aside, I’m excited to finally tackle my towering TBR pile! A sample of the novels in my shiny stack are Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You, Sarah’s Jio’s The Violets of March, Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat, and Ruta Sepetys’s Between Shades of Gray.”

~Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me):

“Summer brings a new Jennifer Weiner book and her latest is called “Then
Came You.” I’m also a huge fan of Elin Hildebrand and will be eagerly awaiting “Silver Girl.” I love diving into juicy, thoughtful beach reads like these!”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

“Rebecca (currently reading) – Daphne du Maurier
Fall of Giants – Ken Follett
Mr. Peanut – Adam Ross
Fighting in the Shade – Sterling Watson
A Visit From the Goon Squad – Jennifer Egan”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán is Kristan. Congratulations.

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be pre-ordered to be sent out next week.

Favorite Fictional Worlds, I

May 05, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

When Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) responded earlier this year with an alternative answer for her fictional BFF, it was simply too good (and intriguing) to pass up. And so, with a grateful nod to Eleanor, TDW asked its other authors:

In what fictional world/neighborhood would you like to live? And why?

This week the following writers replied:

~ Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA):

“I would definitely want to live in Deep Valley, Minnesota with Betsy and Tacy and the Crowd. This would be circa 1906-1910. I know Minnesota is FREEZING in the winter, and BOILING and HUMID in the summer, but they made it sound so nice and cozy with their wool dresses (and wool long underwear!) and furs (of course, my furs would have to be faux). Walking to school through the snow, or downtown to Heinz’s for hot chocolate all sounds so dreamy to me! And spring and summer sound so fun…swimming in the lake (again, in wool!) and eating lots of fresh peach pie. And picnics on the Big Hill. Sign me up! For those of your readers who are not as obsessed as I am with Betsy and Tacy, I am referring, of course, to the Betsy-Tacy book series by Maud Hart Lovelace.?

~Julie Buxbaum (After You, The Opposite of Love):

“I’d love to live in The Secret Garden. Okay, not in the garden itself, but I think it would be so much fun to live in the huge manor behind it and play on the moors all day with Dickon and Mary and frolic in that fictional and magical world. I don’t get to frolic enough in real life.”

~Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 -11):

“This is a hard question to answer- I can think of millions of books I would love to visit. I’d swing by Jane Austen’s drawing room, take a wander through the museum in The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and put my feet up at Hogwarts and enjoy a cup of Butterbeer with Harry Potter.”

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

“Is it just too predictable to say- in Harry Potter’s world, specifically Hogwarts? I’ve always wanted a little magic in my life; and I don’t mean the magic of spring. I want to twitch my nose or blink my eyes and be the witch or genie of my television youth. When I was 7 or so, I was sure, with the right amount of determination and focus, I would be able to levitate, turn bullies into pigs and disappear. I started small, I concentrated on pencils first, sure I could move them to my side. I think now, if only I’d turned that single-minded energy into punctuation or say my abs, I’d be amazing. There would be no need for my wizard fantasies. No need to pine for a wand. But I do pine. I fantasize about joining forces with Harry; smiting evil, silencing gossips, saving the world. I would so happily bow to a Hippogriff and ride off to find terrorists; anything to get me away from grocery shopping and making meal after uneaten meal for the picky eaters in my family. Truth be told, drudgery is my terrorist so I suppose it’s predictable that I want to live in a place where food appears out of nowhere and a room of requirement exists (you know, other than Costco).”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“Right now I wished I lived on a deserted island (like the Swiss Family Robinson) so nobody could find me! I’m trying to stay focused on writing my new novel and if I could only hide for a while, I’d be able to get a lot more done.”

~Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“When my daughter was going through her mopey, teenage years, unhappy with the world around her, we came up with a game that we’d play while driving in the van: We invented our own perfect planets that we would create and rule over. Planet Ad was a pleasant place indeed: Every structure would be painted in bright, Caribbean colors. There would be no rap music, no cigarettes, no rudeness, no slow drivers in the left-hand lane, no laugh tracks on TV sitcoms. There would be no cell phones; people would actually talk to each other in person.”

~Kristy Kiernan (Between Friends, Matters of Faith, and Catching Genius):

“I would like to live on my own creation–Big Dune Island from Catching Genius. Sun, sand, the Gulf of Mexico, shrimp…ahhh, happiness.”

~Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“I confess I am too entranced by the ordinary world around me to want to go anywhere else. Truth.”

~Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter YA, and middle grade addition The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems, The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness):

“The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander. There needs to be another female character in there to give Eilonwy some competition for Taran’s heart. Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m less strident than she is.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

“I’m a huge fan of The Tudors, so would love to experience life as part of their royal court — but just for an evening of elegant gowns, delicious wine, and charming folk dances. In other words, not long enough to be sentenced to a beheading.”

~Sarah Pekkanen (Skipping a Beat and The Opposite of Me):

“Can I cheat a little on this question with a neighborhood that isn’t fictional but is probably very different today? I’ve always loved the neighborhoods described by James Herriott in his “All Things Bright and Beautiful” series – pubs, rolling green hills, friendly neighbors (and since I adore animals it would have been fun to go on veterinary rounds with him). But I’d have to go back in time…”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

“I would choose to live on Melrose Island, South Carolina, the childhoold home of Tom Wingo from THE PRINCE OF TIDES (abscent the tragic childhood.) Why would I want to live there…because Pat Conroy made it irresistible.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Exposure by Therese Fowler is Jennifer Downing. Congratulations!

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

Our Authors’ Best Writing Advice

April 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Two months ago, several of our authors/friends shared words of wisdom that help guide them through the writing process. And, in today’s post, many more answer:

What is the best advice about writing that you’ve received/read AND put to use?

Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA):

“It’s so hard to narrow it down to the individual pieces of advice, because I’ve absorbed all of them into the “stew” of my writing process. “Just do it” is a big one. Also, letting a first draft be just paint thrown at a wall, basically.

“A fantastic writer I worked with once taught greatly by example. He was the boss, and he’d written a script and asked for notes on it. I went through carefully, picking a few things apart and giving general and page notes. As we went through, he would contest my notes and ask about my justification. When we came to a point he didn’t agree with, he said, “I don’t agree with you, but I can tell you’ve invested yourself in this, so I’m going to think harder about that idea.” It taught me that people who are involved in your creative process, like your editor, and your agent, deserve a level of respect and input when they put in the hours. Writing a book, like so many other things, is often the result of collaboration. And I welcome and embrace that. In fact, it’s one of my favorite parts of the process. It’s tremendously flattering that people would devote themselves to making my book better, and highly interesting to read their perspectives on the material. Also, once you establish yourself as a person who’s open to collaboration, the times when you do dig in your heels mean more.”

Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder, Dead in the Water coming May 11, 2010):

“I write in bits here and there since I also work and have a family. The best advice I got was from a screenwriting teacher who told me that when I’m not writing, but sitting at a traffic light or dropping off to sleep, I need to think about my book. I run it through my head like a movie and find the weak points. I imagine different scenarios and subplots. And so when it’s time for me to sit at the computer again, my story feels fresh and I’m raring to go.”

Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“…….Assign yourself a mental goal of BLANK pages to write every day, and don’t do anything else until you’ve reached that quota. Also, disable your browser while you’re working on this….for obvious reasons.”

Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends coming April 6, 2010):

“George Pelecanos once told me: “Hey, don’t worry so much.” Sounds simple, but it’s not. It is, however, incredibly important to allowing creativity more room to work. If I could influence one beginning writer to set aside some of the agony and just write, I would feel I’d done them a tremendous service.”

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool coming April 6, 2010):

“This is not advice per se, but my favorite quote from a writer, and one that has sustained me (because if he thought it, then maybe I am not such a screwup after all): “Writing a novel is like a one-armed man trying to build a chicken coop in a hurricane.”‘–William Faulkner”

Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010):

“After my first manuscript failed to sell, a very kind editor friend, who had read the manuscript, called me up and said, ‘“Look, you have enormous potential, but you have to hone your craft.”’ We had a lengthy conversation, and the crux of it was that I wasn’t as good as I thought that I was. 🙂 What I mean by that is that I think a lot of aspiring writers think that their first go out of the gate is genius, but there is an unlimited learning curve in our craft, and even now, on my fourth book, I learn new things each time I tackle a project. I took her advice to heart, went out and read a lot of authors whom I admired and hoped to emulate, and tried, tried again. There are two ways to take criticism: the first is to dig in your heels and refuse to believe it, and the second is to understand that it’s a great tool for improvement. Thank goodness I chose the latter.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“My blog partner, Kathleen Bolton, told me years ago, ‘“Commit to the work and then never waver. Your book will be so welcome in the world.”’ I took her advice! Another bit of advice I’ve taken: Read, at least occasionally, above your writing level.”


Announcements: The two winners of Kristy Kiernan’s Between Friends are Colleen and Sunny Bravin. Congratulations! Please send your mailing addresses to: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com, I’ll Pre-order your books. Many thanks to everyone who entered and may you Pre-order or purchase the book next week.

For Ad Hudler, It’s about Time

March 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, Househusband) — one of the few select male authors on TDW — may appear to be in the minority yet his writing is universal. In this guest post, he addresses his struggle with procrastination and who (whether writer or reader) cannot identify with that?!]

For years as a stay-at-home dad, I complained that I didn’t have enough time to write. My days were spent running errands, cleaning, cooking, fixing and filling things, and playing chauffeur in the minivan. The caregiver is everyone’s bitch. And his or her needs, especially writing, generally come last.

But, in the past six months, my daughter has gone to college, and my wife has taken a job in another state. And, this being Florida, where our homes are worth a fraction of what they were worth three years ago, I am stuck here for awhile, awaiting the return of the bull market and higher home prices.

Everyone, now: Woo-hooooo! No one to cook for! No one with dirty laundry! And I am breaking the record for number of days that a human can wear one pair of jeans without washing them. (Nine) So I have the most enviable position of all authors right now: I am home, alone! Did you hear me? ALONE!

Given this, I should be writing a book every month, right? I mean, Louisa May Alcott did it with “Little Women.” What’s stopping me?

Well … plenty.

Frankly, I am so thrilled to be living an existence in which no one needs me that I am being somewhat selfish. I’m wasting a lot of time. Hours of time. No, who am I kidding? Weeks of time. I have, most definitely, entered a bon-bon period …

Yes, yes, I’ll write that chapter, but first I’ll catch up on the episodes of Modern Family that I’ve missed. Just one. Okay, two. What the hell: all of them.

I promise that tomorrow I’ll get an early start and write, write, write my butt off. Maybe 2,000 words! Absolutely! Can do! WILL do! …

Oh, but it feels so good to sleep in, and that kitty cat is so peaceful I can’t even think of moving him …

And then, after breakfast, I realize I haven’t been to the beach in awhile, and there was that scene I was writing about shells, and I could definitely do some research ….

Phone rings. It’s a good friend whom I haven’t seen for awhile. “Of course I’d love to meet for lunch. Better yet, let’s do cocktails and dinner.” …

And the next day: How can I even think about writing when I’ve got these cracked sidewalk tiles that need replaced.

Two days later: Well, that certainly took longer than I thought it would. And I’ll sit down to write just as soon as I find that really cool purse that my wife wanted for her birthday …

You get the point. I have found reason after reason not to write. And let me tell you why: Writing a first draft, at least to me, is the hardest thing in the world. You must dig, dig, dig deep, into a special place in your psyche/soul/mind/whatever-it-is for the initial raw words and sentences. And sometimes the act of mining those words, bringing them up to the surface and into this life and onto the computer screen, feels as pleasant as running, backwards, in hot-humid weather. It just drains me. Boggles me. There is nothing harder. Comparatively, editing and revision are more like a walk on the beach in 70-degree weather. I choose the walk over the run. Wouldn’t you?

I’d been acting as if the hours in my day were money, and I’d won the lottery. We all know that when there’s plenty to go around, you don’t feel the need to economize. I, one of the most disciplined people I’ve ever known, had fallen victim to freedoms created by excess.

The problem: I was not making any headway on my memoir. Lots of facebook, let me tell you. (BTW: I give great status), and I wrote some great tweets and blogs on my website … but nothing that would make me money. Even though I’d written four novels, one of them in a six-month period, I evidently had fallen out of practice. And I now know the culprit: I have no deadline for this manuscript. My last three novels were written on contract, with a deadline. I purposely avoided setting up a deadline with this book because I am moving into a new genre – humorous nonfiction – and I am in the experimenting/creating phase right now, trying to find the right voice and pace and content. Not easy stuff, mind you. No wonder I’ve been putting it off. Lesson learned: New genre or not, we all need deadlines. We all need expectations to meet, goals to reach. Otherwise, we languish.

Thankfully, my friend and fellow fiction writer Nancy Zafris stepped in and gave me an ultimatum: I had to write at least 200 words a day. Five hundred would be ideal, 800 would be even better. But, she said, if I managed to pound out at least 200 then I’d often discover that, while I was working toward the goal, momentum would fall on my side of the net, and I would go on to write even more. She was right.

I soon began thinking of my writing in the same way I consider brushing my teeth or taking a shower: It was something required, and I felt “dirty” if I didn’t do it. And soon, in just a matter of days, it became habit again. (It helped that Nancy would email me daily, with an intimidating message that said something like, “Word Count? Progress today?”)
So thank you, Nancy, for getting me back on track. The words have been pouring out of me, sometimes 1,000 in a single day.

That laundry room that needs retextured and repainted? It’s just gonna have to wait. I’ve got a memoir to write.


Book Giveaway; While awaiting completion and publication of Ad’s memoir, The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Househusband in a random drawing of comments left on this post. The deadline is tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced in Thursday’s post.


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Jenny Gardiner’s memoir, Winging it, in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is tomorrow, March 17th at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post.

Our Authors’ Go-To Writing Books, I

March 11, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

When the following thoughtful question was posted on The Divining Wand’s Q & A page — rather than select a few authors to answer this query –, it was sent out to everyone.

I wondered, what do your authors read in the way of writing books? Do they have favorites they refer to again and again? Do they read the classics like, Bird by Bird, or Writing Down the Bones, or do they favor books on craft like, Save the Cat?

Reading (and writing) minds want to know!

As might be expected there were duplicates mentioned, however the authors’ overall choices are impressive for any writer’s library:

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“I am sure you will get a slew of the best book titles, but my true fav is the Scene Book by Sandra Scofield — wonderful for fiction and narrative writers of all kinds.”

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me):

“I have my writing bibles up on my website under the “Writers I Love Link” and I also did a piece for NPR’s “All Things considered” on the 3 books that helped me learn to write a book – it’s on the main page of my website.”

Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series with Book 5: Marcia’s Madness coming May 3, 2010):

“My favorites over the Years: Forest from the Trees, Betsy Lerner; On Writing, Stephen King; The Mythic Journey, Christopher Vogler; The Art of Dramatic Writing, Lajos Egri.”

Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“I might be in the minority here, but I never read books about writing. Instead, I learn by critically reading other writers’ novels and essays and memoirs. If I like something I say, “‘Now … what makes this work so well?” And if I don’t like it I say, “Now … why didn’t this work? What’s wrong with it?'” But writing books per se? Nah.”

Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA coming May 13, 2010):

“I’ve never been that big on books about writing, although I’ve read a few – Bird by Bird comes to mind. However, I like craft books. Ones that tell me what to do, like how to plot a mystery or write comedy or edit the first five pages. My favourite one, and the only one I really turn to over and over, is Donald Maas’ workbook that accompanies his book WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. While I don’t have dreams of being the next Dan Brown, this book and workbook has taught me so much about the craft of writing. And I use some of his exercises when I teach writing too. It’s a must-have for every writer’s library, if you ask me. No matter what your genre or aspirations.”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion)

“My personal go-to books are the following:

By John Gardner: On Becoming a Novelist and The Art of Fiction
Stephen King’s On Writing
Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction (the best instructional book I’ve found)
Robert Olen Butler & Janet Burroway’s From Where You Dream

Each fills a different need. Gardner’s books are a bit dated, but his clear-eyed assessments and advice have always spoken to me.”

Maud Carol Markson (When We Get Home, Looking After Pigeon)

“Stephen King has a wonderful book, On Writing. But for me — the best way to learn about writing is to read (over and over again) the books that I love. I try to absorb what these writers have done with characters, dialogue, plot, voice, etc. Then I write and write and write.”

Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me coming March 16, 2010)

“Loved Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing. I think Save the Cat is a fabulous book that anyone who is putting pen to paper to tell a story should
read. Blake Snyder was a wonderful, smart, and generous person who shared so much great
information for anyone and everyone. I was so sad that we lost him so young. And really bummed because he was to blurb my book and I know it would have been a lovely one.”

To be continued…

Announcement: The winners of Sarah Pekkanen’s debut novel, The Opposite of Me, are Janel and Kristen. Congratulations! Please send your mailing address to diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll get the books to you as soon as possible. Thank you for playing everyone.

The Revealing of Ad Hudler

March 10, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

AdHudlerWhile many of our authors are preparing for their latest releases — followed by book tours of signings/speakings –, others are hard at work — writing. Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, Househusband) is happily busy with the latter as he reports: “I’m hot on the tails of a humorous memoir right now….words are just SPILLING out of me!!”

When naming her 5 favorite books of all time Jenny Gardiner revealed: “Lately I’ve really enjoyed reading Ad Hudler— his novel Househusband is so very well-written and so very insightful, I just enjoyed that read.”

The New York Post claims: “Hudler’s newest novel is ‘”Required Reading.” And the Omaha World-Herald: “Hudler is a master storyteller.”

Who is Ad Hudler? Well, according to his “official” bio:

Ad Hudler is a novelist, essayist, stay-at-home dad and small-space landscaper who frequently gets into trouble for the things he writes and says.

Aha, it’s time now to reveal the the real Ad:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Angst-ridden stay-at-home dad writing books

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: If you want excellence (over mediocrity) you must actively pursue it. Excellence doesn’t find you – you find it. … (Sounds like one of those horrible inspiration posters, doesn’t it?)

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: An inner peace that comes from two things: Knowing that you have nothing to fear and knowing that you no longer have to pretend anything. You can truly be who you are and know that everyone around you won’t care.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: That something horrible will happen to my daughter or wife.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be
A: Honestly, right where I am: In my house, overlooking the bay, surrounded by big leafy oaks and tropical foliage.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Theodore Roosevelt. He didn’t like who he was as a young man, so he went on a tear to reinvent himself. NOTE TO READER: Watch for my coming memoir! It’s all about this.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: My wife. Seriously. She is one of the finest people I’ve ever met: diplomatic, kind, loving, and driven.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “Bite me!” “Mitchell! I am NOT a piece of furniture.” (to the cat)

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d like to know how to play the guitar and harmonica. I’d also like to be fluent in Spanish. Oh … and I’d like to learn silent-suffering. Not very good at that.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My tiramisu! … Seriously, I know it sounds cliché, but … my daughter. She’s just a swell human being.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw
A: Holy crap, where do I start? I’m impatient, I’m judgmental, I blow my nose into dirty socks.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’m a helluva good cook. And I can fill a room with energy like you’ve never seen. I also am very good at picking excellent produce, especially perfectly ripe mangoes.

Q: What do you regret most
A: Nope. Not going there. Way too many things to mention, and they’re big ones.
But I do regret breaking into my piggy bank as a child and using the money to go buy a blow-up swimming pool. I then buried the piggy bank in the back yard. (It’s under the mulberry tree, Mom.)

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: My cat. Oh, he has such a marvelous life. Eat, sleep, lay in the sun. But, hmmm, cats can’t read, so maybe it wouldn’t be so nice after all!

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My baldness and my size: I’m 6.3, 230 pounds.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Holden Caulfield

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Holden Caulfield

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Ummmm, I’m not sure I know of any athletes. Hmmmm. Joe Namath? Is he still alive? Dorothy Hamel?

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: They’re all related to driving: Driving slow in the left-hand lane. And driving while talking on the cell phone. I will honk at you and wave my finger if I see you doing the latter.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading, of course. And cooking. Museums of any kind. And laughing and drinking gin-and-tonics with good friends AFTER 5 o’clock.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Well, I like being a writer, but I’d also like to do what my character, Linc Menner, did in “Househusband”: I’d like to be the go-to landscaper for the rich and famous of Hollywood. Seriously. I think it would be a hoot.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: My refusal to lower my standards. My fierceness. My work ethic.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Tiramisu. Just kidding….uhhh….I think a Vietnamese dish called bun, which is rice noodles and grilled meats and bean sprouts and fresh cilantro and some hot chilis with lime and fish sauce. Very hearty but also refreshing, and lots of tastes and textures.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Oh, Lord, I have terrible taste in music. I’m a child of the late seventies and eighties – need I say more? Let me just admit right here and now that any time I hear Debbie Boone sing “You Light up My Life,” I turn up the radio. And I’ll kick your ass if you make fun of me for it!

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: You can see my complete list on the author page of my website:… but here are five: Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White, A Bend in the River by V.S. Naipaul, Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner, How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellen. And, honestly, the Bible. I may not agree with everything in it, but it’s filled with great stories and awesome characters.

What delightful, charming and laugh-out-loud fun. For much more of Ad, follow him on Twitter, become a friend on Facebook, and read his blog, Ad Libbing!


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand will be giving away two copies of The Opposite of Me in a random drawing. Simply leave a comment on this post — by the deadline of tonight, March 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST — and you’ll be entered in the contest. The winners will be announced in tomorrow’s post.

Happy Holidays from Meg Clayton, Ad Hudler, Melanie Benjamin, and Tish Cohen

December 21, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Holidays

‘Tis the season to be jolly or — more appropriate — to be joyful despite all the busyness. Today our authors offer a special recipe, wishlists, and a best gift given.


Meg Shares Page’s Post-It Turkey Dressing

MegtmbGrowing up, I was never a big fan of dressing, or gravy or anything, really, but the holiday turkey and the pies. For my oldest son’s first Thanksgiving, though, we trekked to Nashville to have Thanksgiving with my mom-in-law, and I tasted turkey dressing Page Davidson Clayton style. What a difference a recipe makes, especially when it includes cornbread, which I’ve always loved!

grandmotherwNickThe next year as the holidays approached I rang Page up – from the office, it appears, since the notes I took for her recipe are written in my messiest scrawl on two rectangular yellow post-it notes. As I’ve pulled it out over the years, I’ve often thought I should commit this to a recipe card. The two post-its no longer stick together, so I’m frequently left with one in hand as I search for its match in the scatter of cut-out and collected recipes that constitute most of my recipe book, and my scrawl is nearly impossible to read, even for me, too, and my spelling atrocious. But somehow I never did, and when I pulled it out this Thanksgiving, the first time I’ve made Page’s dressing since she died last year, I realized I never will; when I look at the post-its, Page springs to life for me again in a way I’m afraid I’ll lose if this wonderful recipe is reduced to careful ink on a 3×5 card.

“Make one recipe corn bread. While hot crumble it up in a bowl. Saute 1/2 – 1 small onion & celery. Use fair amount of margarine. Pour in some of the drippings from turkey and neck, etc., & water and onion and parsely flakes & cook broth for a couple hours. Use plain white bread or biscuits & crumble it up with cornbread (3-4 pieces). Pour in hot broth. Add salt, pepper & a little poultry seasoning. Put in sq. cake pan and bake at 350° or so for till not too brown (or make patties on cookie sheet)”

The celery is struck through because my husband turns out to be allergic to it, and Page said I could omit it, but the other strike-throughs are Page making up her mind about how she cooks. Several years ago, I started throwing in a few pecans and cranberries, too, which my gang likes. But why a square cake pan instead of a round one? How much is “fair amount” or “a little” or “some”? And what’s with the “little patties on a cookie sheet” – is that dressing? These are questions I never got answers to.

In sharing Page’s recipe, though, I mean to send some of the love she gave to me out into the world. And it’s delicious love! Happy holidays, everyone!
Meg Waite Clayton (The Wednesday Sisters)


Ad Hudler’s Personal Holiday Wishlist

AdtmbMud flaps for my truck, new kitchen apron, chain saw, cute little plates from Anthropologie, money for new ‘gator-skin boots, behavioral-modification classes for our cat, and sweet cards from my daughter and wife.
Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband)


Melanie’s Personal Holiday Wishlist

MelanietmbA new fireplace for our living room; it’s what my husband and I are giving each other this year.
Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been coming January 12, 2010)


Tish’s Best Gift to Her (Young) Son

TishtmbWhen my youngest was about five, many of his toys were battery operated and the poor child was born into a battery challenged household so once his Duracell’s ran out, the toys were rendered useless. He asked Santa for batteries and our photo of him that year is one with him grinning wide while holding up his favorite present: batteries. Kind of heart breaking and cute at the same time.
Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue coming June 8, 2010)

On Our Authors’ Keeper Shelves

November 19, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Those books, the cherished ones, that our authors reach out to reread may inspire, comfort or simply entertain. Yet whatever they do, these novels have become priceless companions in our authors’ lives and writing.

How does your personal keeper shelf stack up to:

Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA coming May 13, 2010):

“For rereading, I always turn to Maud Hart Lovelace’s Betsy-Tacy series or a Nevil Shute novel. You cannot go wrong with either. Hmmm…I may have to go read one of those now…”

Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA):

“I am a dedicated rereader. Right now I want to reread September by Rosamunde Pilcher for the atmosphere and cozy feeling it offers.”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, coming January 5, 2010):

“I love to reread books. This is how I justify the stacks of books in my house- someday I’m going to reread them all! I find the first time I read a book I do it simply for enjoyment, the second time I read them I like to look at the craft and structure. There are so many writers I admire and I enjoy dissecting their books. I’ve been known to do chapter by chapter breakdowns looking and how they worked their magic! Some books that I’ve reread include: Vanity Fair, Pride and Prejudice, A Prayer for Owen Meany, Gone with the Wind.”

Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky. I’m actually re-reading it right now. It shows the story of three brothers (one a hedonist, one an intellectual and the other a spiritualist) and the different ways they navigate life despite being from the same family.”

Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA):

“The Grear Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald – I’ll always reread that.”

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters coming January 19, 2010):

I reread all the time. There are some books I revisit at least once every five years or so, just to remind myself the amazing jobs these authors have done in combining story telling, plot, and exquisite writing.

“The novel I have probably reread most often is Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. His story of one of the all-time most dramatic examples of a dysfunctional family refusing to admit to the elephant in the room is astounding.”

Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky Ages 9 – 12, coming December 8, 2009):

“Light in August by William Faulkner. The opening scene is absolutely priceless.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“I have an overstuffed keeper shelf, and I would—and will—reread any of those books, from Colleen McCullogh’s The Thorn Birds to Keith Donohue’s The Stolen Child and Juliet Marillier’s Daughter of the Forest.”

Our Authors’ Rearview Mirrors

November 04, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Art + Business = Writing Lessons Learned.

Yes, once again, several of our authors responded to the question of: If you knew then, what you know now about writing as an art and business, what might you have done differently?

And, as much as these storytellers love their art, most have discovered there’s more to success than creativity.

Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“I would not have signed away my audio rights. As it is now, only one of my four books have been made into audio … and I hear from a reader at least once a week, asking for the audio version. So … in the future I’m going to make sure I keep the audio rights, and I’m going to record the books myself with a production company and sell them, downloadable, on my website.”

Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends coming April 6, 2010):

“I would have been much, much kinder to myself. I would have been more guarded with other writers and listened to my instincts. And I would have been a better custodian of my time and energy.”

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters coming January 19, 2010):

“I would have started far earlier to learn to combine craft with art.

For many years I bought into a belief that writing was magic, where my flying thoughts, imagination, and natural writing bent would somehow combine through alchemy and be tapped out through my fingers. Later in life, I realized that like any builder, I needed to learn the trade, use the right tools, and start building plumb. At that point, I put my head down and worked at learning more from others—both by reading books about the craft of writing and by participating in writer’s workshops.”

Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky Ages 9 – 12, coming December 8, 2009):

“I think I would’ve started submitting earlier. Instead, I felt that getting published was so far out there and so almost unattainable that I found it difficult to be disciplined and sit still long enough to write.’

Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation coming November 24, 2009):

“On the business side I would have invested some of my own funds for outside publicity for my first novel instead of only relying on my publisher and everything I could do myself. On the art side, I would understand that writing is subjective. I would not have worried so much about comparing my writing to that of other writers and have the confidence to know that I have my own style.”

Our Authors’ Inspiration, a Muse?

October 01, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Simply defined, a muse is something that inspires. And — to discover what’s beyond their pages — The Divining Wand asked its authors: What does your Muse look like? Or what does s/he sound like? Or what does s/he feel like? Muse(less)? What inspires you to write?

Here’s how a few writers described the company they keep.

Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband):

“My muse is the daily newspaper in whatever city I happen to be in. Newspapers are the daily diaries of the human race, and since Florida is the White Trash Crime Capital of the Universe, we writers here can get plenty of stories straight from the headlines.”

Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends coming April 6, 2010):

“I’m not a big muse believer, much like I don’t believe in astrology and yet I read my horoscope every day. I am nervous about allowing anything other than me any power over my work. I always feel that if I do that, then I can blame the muse when things aren’t going well, that I can use it as an excuse to not work, or to not do my best. So, I take full responsibility for whether I work or not, but if I don’t, I still secretly curse my muse. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone.”

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me coming March 9, 2010):

“My muse is scruffy: He’s usually wearing a mis-buttoned plaid shirt and old jeans with a hole in the knee, and he wanders over to me, rubbing his eyes and yawning. Often I suspect he’s hung-over. “What, you haven’t written ANYTHING yet?” he bellows at me. “It’s your fault!” I shout back. “I’ve been waiting for you.” Sometimes he gets pouty and refuses to help and storms away. Other times, if I cajole him with coffee and chocolate and compliment him on his brilliance, he gives me a few pages.”

Announcement: The three winners of Jessica Barksdale Inclán’s trilogy sets — including The Beautiful Being — are Debra, Diana and Dot S. Please contact me at: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address.