The Divining Wand

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Catherine McKenzie and Arranged

March 07, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Although not the book’s subtitle, the question of WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT? appears on the front cover of Catherine McKenzie’s (Spin) second novel Arranged. And its answer is told within the pages.

With an insightful and wry perspective on modern romance, the author puts a twist on those thirtysomethings — or any age groups — looking for a home, family and marriage. Because, after all, it is finding someone/anyone to share that ultimate relationship that presents a challenge.

“Aha?!” No, Catherine admits that the idea for the novel didn’t come to her as a full-blown storyline. Instead it followed her normal creative process of gathering bits of pieces from here and there. For example she did know a few couples who had arranged marriages and, of course, what facts had been gleaned from watching The Bachelor. This information, combined with wondering who would participate in either, whirled around in her mind until it became Arranged:

Anne Blythe has a great life: a good job, good friends and a potential book deal for her first novel. When it comes to finding someone to share it with, however, she just can’t seem to get it right.

After yet another relationship ends, Anne comes across a business card for what she thinks is a dating service, and she pockets it just in case. When her best friend, Sarah, announces she’s engaged, Anne can’t help feeling envious. On an impulse, she decides to give the service a try because maybe she could use a little assistance in finding the right man. But Anne soon discovers the company isn’t a dating service; it’s an exclusive, and pricey, arranged marriage service. She initially rejects the idea, but the more she thinks about it – and the company’s success rate – the more it appeals to her. After all, arranged marriages are the norm for millions of women around the world, so why wouldn’t it work for her?

A few months later, Anne is travelling to a Mexican resort where in one short weekend she will meet and marry Jack. And against all odds, it seems to be working out – until Anne learns that Jack and the company that arranged their marriage are not what they seem at all.

Of course there is Praise for Arranged, but the real proof of what a relevant, clever, and refreshing tale this is can be found at the HarperCollinsCanada site where you’re invited to Browse Inside. Please take advantage of the publisher’s generosity for there is more to read than merely browse here.

Anne, Jack and the supporting cast of vivid characters — including friends AND family members — have a good sense of themselves and an even better sense of Anne. They’re witty, wise and believable as they try to shed light on Anne’s dating/relationship failures. However one must realize the truth for herself and this protagonist is no exception. The revelations she makes though, along the way, are both charming and confusing, supporting Catherine McKenzie’s message.

For, within the fantasy world of fiction, the author’s hope is to convey how limiting it can be to believe that there is only one person out in the world for everyone — a soulmate. Instead of predestination there are romantic choices and, for her character of Anne Blythe, there may even be an alternative method to discover that choice.

Catherine’s writing is a combination of light, funny, and profound as she tells the story of how a single woman thinks love should be as easy as a fairy tale. In other words it’s all magic, there’s no need to work at love. Except when faced with the invitation of an arranged marriage where, based on a compatibility quotient, there is allegedly no need for love. Common interests, respect, and friendship statistically create successful bonds, so what’s love got to do with it and does it even belong?

The unexpected twists of this novel are brilliant yet not surprising considering the flawed, very human characters. And — with prominent themes of loneliness, loyalty, trust, and friendship at its core — the reader can expect a tale of truth as well.

Taking on a modern day dilemma with a possible solution from an age old tradition, Catherine McKenzie offers readers a delightful experience of exploring what real love is and means. Arranged can be purchased through Amazon.ca, please do so….you will more than enjoy!

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[Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters is at #14 this week on The New York Times Bestseller List. And on March 21st Eleanor begins her West Coast book tour, please check her website’s Events for details.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Catherine McKenzie’s Arranged in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, . Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, March 9, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Catherine McKenzie on
Can I make a book a bestseller?

March 01, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin) had one of those “Aha” moments that Oprah frequently talks about and, also like Oprah, she decided to recommend a few books worthy of more attention. In today’s guest post, the author explains the who, why, and where of her cause and how you can help as well as benefit too.]

Can I make a book a bestseller?

Authors these days are bombarded with a constant message: social media is the place to be to sell books. Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads etc., you’ve got to be on these sites to build awareness, and awareness = book sales.

But is this one of those truisms that nobody’s verified? And how exactly is one supposed to be on all these media? If I want to sell my book should I be on Twitter all day narrating my every action? Should I merely go on once in a while when I have a big (preferably funny) thought? Do I have to thank the person who gave my book 1 star on Goodreads for buying my book and telling the world they hated it? And do I really have to accept that Facebook friend request from the man who claims he’s an author but looks like he just escaped from lockdown?

I suspect no one really knows the answers to these questions, and there’s certainly no instruction manual. So what’s an author to do? Keep your head down and keep writing, I expect. But in the meantime, I was intrigued last year by the Facebook campaign to get Betty White to host Saturday Night Live. It’s old news by now right: someone started an “I bet” group on Facebook and hey, presto, there she was cracking wise about the very people who’d got her there a few weeks later.

And this got me thinking. Was it possible to show a direct relationship between social media and book sales? Could I “bet” a bunch of people on Facebook and make a book a bestseller? Well, sure I could try. Why the hell not?

So I did. I started a group on Facebook called “I bet we can make these books bestsellers” (I call it the Author/Reader Effect for short – a riff on the Oprah Effect), and chose two books by Wyoming author Shawn Klomparens as the first test subjects. I also started a related group on Goodreads just to cover all my social networking bases (alas Twitter only has lists, not groups – so far!)

I chose Klomparen’s books, Jessica Z. and Two Years, No Rain, because they were the best books I’d read in the last six months that hadn’t gotten the attention I think they deserve. Also, I didn’t want this experiment to be about me. I was doing this in the name of science!

So, now what? Well, the Facebook group has approximately 3,450 members including authors James Frey, Tom Perrotta, Tish Cohen, Katherine Howe and Cathy Marie Buchanan. The Goodreads group has over 400 members. This year, I’ve branched out and have been adding two new books a month and run frequent giveaways to help spread the word (in fact, we’re giving away 35 books right now! This months’ books are Husband & Wife by Leah Stewart and The Wilding by Benjamin Percy). And I’m pretty sure that I’ve introduced some great authors to some great readers. But no Oprah like powers. For now.

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Reminder: Beginning today, March 1, 2011, MaNIC MoMMy is hosting March Madness Book-A-Day Giveaway! You’ll have an opportunity to win a book from one of many TDW authors as well as several other authors who may be new to you. Every day there’s a winner and, at the end of the month, a GRAND PRIZE WINNER. Interested? Please click the link for details.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Anna Fields’ Confessions of a Rebel Debutante in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Anna Fields and Confessions of a Rebel Debutante. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, March 2, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Catherine McKenzie

February 23, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

After her success with debut novel Spin in 2010, Canadian author Catherine McKenzie’s second novel Arranged — released in early January 2011 — fulfilled her dream. For ARRANGED hit the Globe & Mail’s Canadian Bestseller list at #10 on January 22, 2011! And how appropriate for a determined, dedicated writer who campaigns and believes I bet we can make these books best sellers — books by other authors, that is. (More about this site next week.)

In a two sentence description, Arranged is: A wonderful romance of bizarre coincidence that tugs at the heart. It’s a refreshingly new take on love far from the conventions of love, where you take leaps and bounds of faith to trust that karma will be kind.

And Praise:

“Catherine McKenzie’s ARRANGED is a satisfying and entertaining romance that puts a very contemporary twist on old-fashioned ideas about marriage. I inhaled it in an afternoon, rooting for its heroine to fine the love she longs for.” – Leah Stewart, author of Body of a Girl and Husband & Wife

“A novel that explores what happens when what you think you want collides with what you really need. Catherine McKenzie’s Arranged is a rare book: smart, funny, honest and absorbing.” – Therese Walsh, author of The Last Will of Moira Leahy

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Arranged for Monday, March 7, 2011 but, between now and then, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

CATHERINE McKENZIE was born and raised in Montreal where she now works as a litigator. When not serving on many professional associations, she teaches part-time at McGill University’s faculty of law. Her bestselling first novel, Spin, was released to critical acclaim in 2010. Arranged is her second book.

And now it’s time to get to know more about Catherine, up close and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: I only need one: hectic.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Don’t plan your life; live it.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A:Being curled up with a great book.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Snakes. I hate snakes, I hate ’em.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Hard to choose one place, but a cabin on a lake sounds pretty good. Or at the base of a mountain wouldn’t suck either.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I’ve always been partial to Mary Queen of Scots. She got a raw deal.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I don’t generally “admire” people, but can be blown away by people’s actions and deeds.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: It’s funny because; just; that.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut. Or a professional tennis player.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: To be lucky enough to be in a position to have people want to know these types of things about me.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Taking on too much.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Answering this question would change previous answer to “arrogance”.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: The path not chosen.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Steffi Graf.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I talk a lot.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Han Solo.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Darth Vader.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Andre Agassi. “I followed your whole career, and I loved you book.”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Being asked how I have time to write.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading. Watching TV.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Astronaut.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Intelligence. Humor. Good dental hygiene.

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

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Impossible question to answer.

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Equally impossible.

Thought-provoking, thoughtful, and always ready for a new challenge, Catherine McKenzie is a fascinating author to follow on Twitter and become a friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina McMorris’s Letters from Home in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Kristina McMorris and Letters from Home. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.