The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

James King and Bill Warrington’s Last Chance

November 22, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Although his journey to publication took more than 30 years, James King reached his destination — not only by becoming an Amazon Breakthrough Winner — but by writing his debut novel Bill Warrington’s Last Chance about the journey of life.

The author, a corporate communications writer by day and aspiring novelist by night, had three unpublished novels in his desk drawer when he was inspired to write the character of Bill Warrington based on a neighbor/friend who had passed away ten years earlier. As James says:

“He was a nice man, but in a gruff, New England-Yankee sort of way. My wife and I had just moved into our house two weeks after his wife of some fifty years had died. And over the years, the house that he had built for her started to fall apart around him. He wanted no help. In fact, when I complained to him that he should let me help him, let me be a good neighbor, he said, “’You are a good neighbor; you mind your own damned business.’”

What a great character with a lifetime of experiences but what does the author do with such a solitary man? The genius idea of pairing a failing grandfather with his “dreaming big dreams” granddaughter fell into place when, according to James, “April showed up one day, knocked on the creative block I was dealing with at the time, and demanded to be put into the story. I have no idea where she came from, but I’m grateful she came around.”

And the storyline evolved into the novel and this synopsis:

With a new diagnosis that threatens his mind and most cherished memories, Bill Warrington is determined to patch up his differences with his three children before it’s too late. But when all three grown siblings greet Bill’s overtures with wary indifference, he improvises a scheme to skip town with his fifteen-year-old granddaughter, April, whose twin ambitions to learn how to drive and to find rock stardom on the West Coast make her his perfect–and perfectly willing–abductee. But Bill’s plan soon veers dangerously off course, leaving April behind the wheel of his beloved Chevy Impala, dealing with situations no fifteen-year-old should face. A rich multigenerational saga, Bill Warrington’s Last Chance soars with humor, compassion, and unflinching insight into the pain and joy of all family life, while the promise of a new generation shines bright against the ravages of aging in a man who does not go gently… anywhere.

No Bill Warrington does not go gently at all as this video shows:

And the critics agree:

“The spirited interplay between the gruff but wounded Bill and the perhaps too precocious April provides the most sensitive scenes in this enjoyable first novel.” Publisher’s Weekly

“A moving tale.” People Magazine. Selected as a “Great Read.”

“Part road odyssey, part coming-of-age tale, King’s novel achieves the exact right balance of humor, redemption, and reconciliation.” Deborah Donovan, Booklist

In a beautifully written tale of reality James King explores the universal themes of grief and forgiveness, aging and death, the desire for freedom and the need for connection. A story literally for all ages, the author has provided characters — young, middle age, and elderly — who have yet to learn life’s lessons and continue holding on to their errant behavior until, as in Bill’s case, it’s almost too late.

Yes the characters are flawed but not unlikeable. They have their issues as well as redeeming qualities to which almost every reader can relate. And, in addition to the drama, there is the humor for Bill Warrington does not go gently.

Although Alzheimer’s is implied, it’s also never stated that Bill has been diagnosed with the disease. In fact he rationalizes his forgetfulness during his lucid moments and hours of storytelling. Still, when the author places the reader in Bill’s mind as his memory fades in and out, the experience feels remarkably accurate. So much so that The Divining Wand asked James to explain how he managed to create the believable mental confusion? And he replied:

“I’m not sure I can. My research into dementia was limited primarily to its symptoms. Beyond that, I just put myself in Bill’s shoes and tried to imagine what it was like, for example, to reach for a doorknob and suddenly realize that you have no idea where you are, or who or what is on the other side of that door.”

A frightening, sad thought yet even more disturbing might be the disconnection from family and friends. How ironic is it that we now live in a world where there are phone companies and Internet providers that offer friends and family plans to keep us electronically connected 24/7, yet an in-person smile or nod of understanding is probably what’s needed?

And how appropriate is it that Bill Warrington’s Last Chance is being presented/reviewed during Thanksgiving week? This novel provides hope and possibly even encouragement to reconnect with family members. In fact, since the novel’s debut in late August, James King has been flattered to receive a number of emails and letters from readers who have said that the story has not only “struck home,” but has also reminded them of what’s important in life.

This is truly a good book, a wonderful read, and a lovely gift. Enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of James King’s Bill Warrington’s Last Chance in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. Because of the shortened holiday week the deadline is tomorrow, Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Wednesday’s post. If you enter, please return Wednesday to see if you’re a winner.

Tish Cohen and The Truth About Delilah Blue

June 07, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the book’s front cover:

“A beautifully written, finely wrought, race-to-the-end novel about finding your family,
finding a life and finding yourself. Tish Cohen is the next great thing in women’s fiction.”
__Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of
The One That I Want and Time of My Life

The multi-talented, insightful Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA) offers readers a coming-of-age, coming-to terms book tomorrow — June 8, 2010 –, with her third adult novel, The Truth About Delilah Blue. It’s true that the title character is only twenty, yet how many individuals, of any age, suddenly learn and must attempt to maturely cope with the fact that they were once a child on a milk carton deemed MISSING?

Although that alone would be an amazing “what if” for a storyline, it was not the basic idea for The Truth. Rather the inspiration came from the author’s father’s back surgery as explained in the December 1, 2009 blog post, The Truth About Delilah Blue:

“I’m very excited about my next book for adults, I wrote it over a period of about two years and it was inspired, but has nothing to do with, by my father’s back surgery. My single father lives out in California, my youngest brother lives in Vancouver and my sister, other brother and I live in the northeast. So when Dad announced he needed someone to care for him for two weeks post-op, it was no simple feat to decide who could up and go. Turned out Michael, the youngest, was able to transport his work down south and be there for our dad. We were never going to leave Dad to himself, if it hadn’t been Michael, my sister or I would have pulled our kids out of school and hopped on a plane.

Our dad is lucky, he has four kids who care, but the experience got me thinking: what happens when the aging parent had wronged his children or child in the past? How would that child react when the parent is vulnerable and a reversal of roles becomes real? So here was the seed for a story. All I needed to do was think up a paternal act that could not only be proven later in my heroine’s life, but would be irrevocable, unspeakable, and unforgivable.

This one terrible act, a dozen years in the past, became the basis for THE TRUTH ABOUT DELILAH BLUE.” Please read more.

Tish’s post then evolved into the following synopsis:

What if you woke up one day to learn that you were a child on a milk carton?

Lila Mack, formerly known as Delilah Blue Lovett, has always felt like an outsider ever since she moved from the gingerbread community of Cabbagetown, Toronto to Los Angeles with her father when she was eight-years-old. Now twenty and still struggling to find her way in life, she longs to become an artist like her long-lost mother, but unable to pay for classes she does something quite daring. She takes a job as an art model, posing nude for a classroom full of students so she can learn from the professor—a decision that lifts the veil of her once insular world.

Anxiety over exposing her body is the least of Lila’s worries when her father starts to become disoriented and forgetful, signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s. At the same time, her mother re-enters the scene, bringing secrets about the past that will change their lives. Suddenly, nearly everything Lila knows about herself is a lie, and she has no idea who to trust—her free-spirited mother whom she always believed abandoned the family, or her adoring father, who has begun his descent into senility and is either unable or unwilling to give her answers. Lila realizes neither parent is what he/she seems and the only one she can really rely on is the most broken person of all—herself.

The Truth About Delilah Blue showcases Cohen’s talent for finding the humor and heart in the most dysfunctional of families as she tackles the subject of parental abduction and the themes of abandonment, trust, healing and forgiveness.

Anyone who has read Town House, Inside Out Girl, or even Little Black Lies knows Tish’s affinity for creating quirky, problematic-to-society, main characters and shaping them into unique, believable individuals, deserving of respect and understanding. However, in this novel, the author allows Delilah to be the stronger, more put-together one who must deal with quirky, dysfunctional parents and friends. It’s not that Delilah Blue lacks insecurities, confusion about her own identity, and definite trust issues. Of course she does. But, in knowing the main character intimately, her mix of optimism, pessimism, and indecision make perfect sense. So much so that I did not read the Uncorrected Proof sent by Harper Perennial, instead I inhabited Delilah Blue and discovered the truth when she did.

Indeed Tish Cohen tells the story THAT personally, realizing it was what she had to do:

“To have the guts to look to my past, my childhood, for what unsettles me most. What really scares me. Because this emotion is exactly what my new book needs.”

Exposing such raw emotions could have made this story dark, instead it is brave and realistically glorious. After reading the post, Guest Tish Cohen on Honest Choices, one knows that the author would not permit anything less from herself or Delilah.

The Truth About Delilah Blue is exactly as Allison Winn Scotch describes it…and more. For this novel is a captivating “must read” about true self-discovery, acceptance and moving forward.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Tish Cohen’s The Truth About Delilah Blue in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.