The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

What Better Season for Turning These Pages

July 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Books in Review

On March 4, 2010 The Divining Wand’s post presented, Our Authors’ Spring/Summer Book Releases. Now, at the July 4th mid-summer break, let’s review those books you may have missed and belong in your TBR tote bag.


Presenting Debutante Sarah Pekkanen and The Opposite of Me

Jenny Gardiner and Winging It


Kristy Kiernan and Between Friends

Holly LeCraw and The Swimming Pool

Matthew Quick and SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR


Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Marcia’s Madness

Meredith Cole and Dead in the Water

Presenting Debutante Joëlle Anthony and Restoring Harmony

Barrie Summy and I So Don’t Do Makeup

Presenting Debutante Emily Wiinslow and The Whole World


Allison Winn Scotch and The One That I Want

Tish Cohen and The Truth About Delilah Blue

Allie Larkin and Stay

Carey Goldbergy, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand with Three Wishes

Trish Ryan and A Maze of Grace

Robin Antalek and The Summer We Fell Apart

Of course there are more books to come, including Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch debuting on August 5th and Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars) second novel The Life You’ve Imagined releasing August 17th. Yet for a lazy, hazy holiday break, there’s more than enough great reading here. Enjoy!

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Announcement: The winners of Robin Antalek’s The Summer We Fell Apart are Keetha and Jenny.

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

Barrie Summy and I So Don’t Do Makeup

May 20, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

For all tween mystery fans, Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky) has put Sherry (short for Sherlock) Holmes Baldwin back out in the world, to solve her THIRD mystery in I So Don’t Do Makeup.

Readers can expect two differences — one minor, one major — in this book with the first being that the mystery is introduced almost immediately. According to the author, “this is one of the great things about writing a series! Readers know the characters and expect a certain voice. In this case, they expect a mystery. So, the writer gets to jump right into the thick of things more quickly.”

And that’s exactly what Sherry does EXCEPT this time (major difference) she’s not using her detective skills to help her mom — a policewoman, who died in a drug bust well over a year ago, and is now a member of the ghost patrol watching over the real world. On the contrary, Mom urges Sherry to stay away from this mystery but, alas, even “spirit” Moms have only so much control. Besides, Sherry and her friends have been innocent victims of this crime.

To better understand, here’s the synopsis:

This third mystery about fast-thinking sleuth Sherry Holmes Baldwin is perfect for tweens and teens who love investigating with heroines they can relate to.

What’s better than a sleepover? A sleepover with makeovers! Sherry and her friends have an awesome time with eye shadow, glitter, and more hair products than a salon. But when the girls wake up the next morning with serious skin issues, Sherry is freaked. Someone must have tampered with her makeup!

It turns out that the mall’s cosmetics kiosk has had lots of products returned by upset customers. Sherry is determined to get to the bottom of things. After all, she’s a bit of a crime-solving celebrity (well, at least in the spirit world). Ghost academies around the world are impressed by Sherry’s and her ghost mom’s skills.

And if anyone can solve a mystery involving mascara, it’s Sherry Holmes Baldwin.

Now view I So Don’t Do Makeup book trailer that showcases the storyline.

What Barrie Summy has done in this book is to have Sherry and her friends put aside their differences to work toward a common goal of solving the crime! Indeed they use their common sense, research and technological skills, along with bravery and commitment, in order to succeed. Talk about empowerment and enhancing preteen self-concepts…not only for Sherry, but for her fans!

The author admits she admires Sherry’s tenacity, especially when things don’t come easily for her, the character refuses to give up. As a Mother of four children, however, Barrie knows even the best child isn’t perfect. In fact she’s not afraid to reveal Sherry’s flaws — a few being a lack of preparation for schoolwork combined with a degree of thoughtlessness for a teacher. As an adult this scene upset me, while the author hopes it makes young readers “feel a little uncomfortable and encourages them to evaluate their own behavior in a similar situation.”

The bottom line is that as much fun, character-building, and outwitting adults scenarios as there are in these tween mysteries, there are also important lessons to be learned. Well beyond the glitter and glamour products of I So Don’t Do Makeup is a basic wholesome tale of preteens respecting the value between right and wrong, then doing their best to have justice served.

I So Don’t Do Makeup is available now and by remembering last week’s post, Guest Barrie Summy and Her Middle Grade School Fans, both girls and boys love this series…especially during summer vacation days!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Barrie Summy’s
I So Don’t Do Makeup 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 NEXT Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in NEXT Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return NEXT Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Guest Barrie Summy on Her Middle Grade School Fans

May 13, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky Ages 9 – 12) added to her Sherry Baldwin mystery series when I So Don’t Do Makeup was released Tuesday, May 11, 2010. And, although the author does bookstore readings/signings, she also visits middle grade schools. In today’s guest post, Barrie shares what inquiring tween readers want to know.]

First off, thank you, Larramie, for inviting me to guest post. I always enjoy a visit with you!

With I SO DON’T DO MAKEUP just out on May 11, I have several school visits planned for over the next few of weeks. Even my first Skype visit! Ack.

BarriieclassWhat can I tell you about school visits? They’re very, very fun! Some of the most interesting people in the world hang out at schools! It feels very grown up to get to go in the teachers’ lounge.

So, what kinds of questions do I get when I’m at a school? Well, a little of this and a little of that. Let me share some with you.

Question: What was your favorite book growing up?
Answer: I totally wimp out on this because I can never limit myself to just one book. My favorite picture book was AND TO THINK THAT I SAW IT ON MULBERRY STREET by Dr. Seuss. I loved loved loved Nancy Drew. I was especially partial to THE HIDDEN STAIRSCASE and THE PASSWORD TO LARKSPUR LANE. My other favorite book was A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Betty Smith.

Question: Can you count to ten in French? [Note: Barrie was born and raised in Canada.]
Answer: un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq, six, sept, huit, neuf, dix.

Question: If you could be a character in one of your books, who would you be?
Answer: Probably Sherry so that I could be the star and solve the mystery. Plus, she’s braver than me. Although I wouldn’t mind having perfect hair like Amber. And I’d kind of like to be super smart like Junie. But if I HAVE to choose just one, it’s Sherry.

Question: What is your favorite color?
Answer: It was green for years, but I think it’s changing to purple.

Question: Could you please write a book called I SO DON’T DO ROMANCE or I SO DON’T DO SPORTS?
Answer: Seriously, these are the two most common book titles students suggest. Something else I’ve noticed: fourth graders make more title suggestions than any other group.

Question: Is Josh in the next book?
Answer: Yes

Question: Could you please use my name in one of your books? But don’t make me a pet or a villain.
Answer: Maybe. I hear some great names at schools. And would you possibly be open to having your name used for a cute puppy as opposed to a snake?

Question: What do you do when you get writer’s block?
Answer: Change. If I’m writing at home, I go to the coffee shop or library. I take a break from writing and hop on the treadmill or go on a walk with Dorothy the Dog. The whole time, I repeat to myself, “Do not panic. Do not panic.”

School visits are a two-way street. The kids ask me questions. I ask them questions. I like to know what they’re reading in their spare time. What they’re reading in class. What books they like; what books they don’t like. Who’s interested in becoming a writer. How the writing program works at their school. I’m quite the nosy visitor!

When I first started doing school visits, I was nervous. Now I just look forward to them!

***Author Barrie Summy is hosting a giveaway of her fun mystery series! One BarrieGPGrand Prize winner will receive autographed copies of the three books in the series, I SO DON’T DO MAKEUP, I SO DON’T DO SPOOKY, and I SO DON’T DO MYSTERIES, plus a tote bag and t-shirt! Three lucky runners up will win an autographed copy of I SO DON’T DO MAKEUP and a t-shirt!

To enter, send an email to (note: no apostrophe!) with the subject line “Pick Me!” In the body of the email, include your name and email address (if you’re under 13, submit a parent’s name and email address).

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Announcement: What a wonderful turnout for these two book giveaways and I truly wish you all could win, however… THE winner of Meredith Cole’s Dead in the Water is Lillie H (AliseOnLife).


The Book Vixen is the winner of Joëlle Anthony’s Restoring Harmony. Congratulations!

Now if you’ll both please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address, the books will be sent out promptly.

The Facts and Factors of A Novel’s Word Count, II

April 29, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Today’s post is the continuation of how authors responded to a recent question posted on The Divining Wand’s Q & A page:

Here’s another question for your authors: What is the word count of most of their novels?

I know that we here all sorts of estimates of what a novel should be, 70,000 to 100,000 words. But what is the actual count for the novels featured here, and do your authors think about word count as they’re writing?

Also please welcome The Divining Wand’s latest about-to-become author, Allie Larkin, who leads off with:

Allie Larkin (STAY coming June 10, 2010):

“The final version of STAY is around 100,000 words. The first draft was just short of 70,000, and then grew through the revising process, as the story became more layered and I developed the characters further. I don’t think word count should be a concern in the first few drafts of a book. Those drafts are about creating the framework of the story and getting to know the characters. Obviously, there are ideal lengths for books, but I think reaching an ideal word count should be more of an organic process than a goal to meet. You never want to add words just for the sake of adding them. So, even if it’s necessary to add 10-20,000 words to make the book a marketable length, I think the focus should be more about figuring out a way to grow the story and grow the characters, than trying to hit a certain number.”

Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“This is a good question. Before ALICE, I always aimed at 80,000; my earlier contract, for my 2 contemporary novels, stipulated that should be the approximate word count. When I moved to historical fiction, however, I found that there’s more leeway, and ALICE came in at around 100,000 words, and nobody blinked an eye. That’s the word count I have in mind for my next historical novel, too.

“However – word of advice. Let the story develop as it needs to and try not to obsess about the word count until it’s finished. Revisions always change things. If you finish and you find you’re way under the typical word count (which is, yes, anywhere from 70,000 to 100,000, depending on the genre as I said above), then you may have to decide whether or not the work would be better off as a short story. If you’re way over, you can edit and perhaps divide the work into 2 novels. So – try not to obsess while telling the story, but at the end of the day, word count does matter.”

Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Ooh, I definitely think about word count as I’m writing . . . my novels tend to be in the 75,000 word range, which is a bit on the short side. And I NEVER get to that in my first draft. My goal in a first draft is to get to 65,000 words because I know that in revising (which to me means mostly adding and rearranging), I’ll get in that magical realm of 70,000-80,000 words.”

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“Mine is about 80,000 words. I didn’t think about word count as I was writing, but assumed I would come in at 300ish pages. As it turned out, mine is 307. I tend to like books that are tightly constructed and not overlong, although there are always exceptions.”

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

“Since I write for pretty much every age group imaginable, I’m all over the place on this. Each volume in The Sisters 8 series for young readers comes in at about 22K. My one middle grade was 35K. My adult novels range from 70-100K. Even within YA, I’m all over the place, with most coming in at 45-50K while The Twin’s Daughter (due out on Aug 31) is a whopping 96K! It all depends on what the individual book demands, how long it takes to tell the story right.”

Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“Sounds Like Crazy weighs in at just over 105,000 words. I wrote without regard to word count and was lucky enough to have my book published under an imprint that believes a book should be as long as it needs to be to tell the story.”

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

“I don’t have the exact number but I believe Looking After Pigeon was just around 80,000 words. The novel I’m working on now is about 85,000 words.”

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me):

“The Opposite of Me is 105,000 words (give or take a few). My second novel is about 90,000 words. I do think a little about word count as I write, knowing it would be much harder to sell a book that came in at 60,000 or 200,000 words.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined coming August 17, 2010):

“I had to look this information up. REAL LIFE & LIARS was 85,498 in the pre-copyedited version, and THE LIFE YOU’VE IMAGINED is a little longer at 91,171. My work-in-progress will end up about the same. Since I measure my daily progress in first drafts by word count I suppose I do think about it as I write, but only as a handy way to measure productivity. I do feel very pleased when I hit the big round numbers divisible by 10,000. It’s arbitrary, but it does feel like a milestone and since writing a first draft is so solitary it’s nice to congratulate myself on leaping those hurdles. No one else is going to throw me a party.”

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

“All of mine hover around the 85k mark. I do think about WC as I’m writing – I think about the book in a series of acts, and I know when to begin each one (generally), so I can time the action – and the necessary arc of that action – to the word count.”

Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky and I So Don’t Do Makeup coming May 11, 2010, Ages 9 – 12):

“My novels (tween mysteries) are 52,000 to 55,000 words. Do I think about word count while I’m writing?

“Yes. Yes. Yes.

“I’m a HUGE plotter, and I know where I should be word-count wise for the major plot points, darkest moment, the resolution. This is how I keep the pace up.

“And also how I keep my sanity. I promise myself treats all the way through the first draft. For example, when I reach the first plot point, around 13,000 words, I get to have a package of licorice as a reward.”

Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation):

“I believe that my word counts come out to be around 85,000. I never think about this when I’m writing, though. I just write as much as I need to tell the story and it always seems to work out okay in the end.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“My publisher, Shaye Areheart, likes books to come in right at about 90,000 words, which is the word count for The Last Will of Moira Leahy.

“I keep tabs of word count using Word, but I don’t stress about it much while drafting a story. I tend to trust that the word count will fall near the right mark in the end. Word count definitely becomes more important during editing, though. I find it easier to edit a “fat” story down to size rather than add new beef.”

And a final word on just the facts….

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“According to, ‘”Most print publishers prefer a minimum word count of around 70,000 words for a first novel, and some even hesitate for any work shorter than 80,000. Yet any piece of fiction climbing over the 110,000 word mark also tends to give editors some pause. They need to be sure they can produce a product that won’t over-extend their budget, but still be enticing enough to readers to be saleable. Imagine paying good money for a book less than a quarter-inch thick?”‘

“That said, there is much back and forth on this issue. I think the topic is very well covered by agent Colleen Lindsay in her blog, the swivet.”

If you have a question for our authors feel free to post it on the Q & A page or email:

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ATTENTION: This site’s rather exclusive sidebar has a new addition under the category of Must See. ArounderTouch is an iPhone app from The virtual reality site — featuring gorgeous 360-degree panoramas of the world — is what I frequently used on Seize A Daisy’s “Friday Getaways.” It’s a first-class ticket for your travel plans or imaginary flights of fancy, please check it out.

Announcement: The winners of Quick’s debut YA novel, SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR, are Keetha and Beth. Congratulations! Please send your mailing addresses to: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com, and I’ll have your copy sent out promptly. Many thanks to everyone who entered.

Our Authors’ Spring/Summer Book Releases

March 04, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Books

Have you heard, new books are coming? That’s been my refrain throughout the winter but it’s only the truth. And the new releases begin appearing next Tuesday when Sarah Pekkanen (hmm, ever heard of her?) debuts with The Opposite of Me.

Rather than tell of all the others, let me show you what will soon be in bookstores as well as here on The Divining Wand.

March 9, 2010:
Sarah Pekkanen debuts with The Opposite of Me

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

April 6, 2010:
Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith) gifts us with her third novel, Between Friends.BFsm

Holly LeCraw debuts with The Swimming Pool.TSWMPs

May 3, 2010:Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series) adds to the SISTERS 8 with with Book 5: Marcia’s Madness.MAMAD

May 11, 2010:
Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder) gives us more chills with her second mystery, Dead in the Water.DItWsm

Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky) has yet another detective case for preteens with I So Don’t Do Makeup Ages 9 – 12.ISODDMAKE

May 13, 2010:
Joëlle Anthony debuts with Restoring Harmony YA.RESHAR

May 25, 2010:

Emily Winslow debuts with The Whole World.TWHWORLDsm

Thaisa Frank (A Brief History in Camouflage, Sleeping in Velvet) offers a gem with Heiddegger’s Glasses.HEIDGLAS

June 1, 2010:
Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life) assures us that her third novel is The One That I Want.TOTIWsm

June 8, 2010:
TRUDELBLUTish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA) tells The Truth About Delilah Blue.

June 22, 2010:
Trish Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Love, and Happily Ever After) shares more of her life with A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances.AMAZEGRACE

July 12, 2010:
Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series with Book 5: Marcia’s Madness) returns to YA with The Education of Bet.TEDoB

August 5, 2010:
Alicia Bessette debuts with Simply from Scratch.SIMSCR

August 17, 2010:
Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars) promises another “a la Anne Tyler” novel with The Life You’ve Imagined.

All of these authors will be revealed and their books presented, in addition to a few surprises. Remember, it begins this Monday with The Opposite of Me!

[Note: This information will be archived on the Debuts page.]

Our Authors’ True Love of the Writing Process, II

February 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles

As promised here is a continuation of authors’ responses to the question of: What do you love most about the writing process?

Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010):

“For the most part, my writing process is arduous. Often when I’m struggling to find the right words or simply the courage to keep on typing, I hear Matt typing away in the next room, or hear him lean back in his chair and sigh. I’m married to a writer, and no one understands my struggles better. It’s an inspiring reminder of the miracle of our own love story, and it’s what I cherish the most about my writing process.”

Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters)

“What I love most about writing is when I get it right. It’s very satisfying to use just the right word or image to describe something or write a beautiful sentence. Which is why I usually enjoy rewriting more than writing.”

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

“I love the new idea stage. I haven’t had a chance to ruin anything or realized why certain things won’t work. I’m convinced the idea is brilliant and I can’t wait to get started.”

Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue coming June 8, 2010):

“What I love most about the writing process is that rare moment when your isolated ideas start to mesh into something more whole. It happens when you least expect it and it is always astonishing as the first time.”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“The magical feeling of seeing a scene in my mind and transmitting it into words as if I’m taking dictation from the gods–with the result being characters and events that become absolutely real to me. That’s certainly not an every-day event, but knowing that it can happen and does happen thrills me.”

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

“I’m having my favorite writing moment today actually. There’s a point in the manuscript when my fingers are flying, when I don’t even look at the screen, when there is hard rock on in the background and I hear nothing else. I don’t even realize that I’m breathing, I don’t feel hunger, I’m not cold, I’m not hot, I don’t feel my body at all. The Apocalypse could be raging outside, but all I am is flying fingers and story and music. THAT is a happy Kristy Kiernan.”

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

“Those moments when you go in a completely unexpected, intuitive direction.”

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

“I love it when I am at just the editing state– just working on a sentence or a paragraph here and there– finding the beauty in the words and the language, and the truth in my characters.”

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters:

“What don’t I love about my writing process? I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be writing full time. Now, what do I love most? Bringing a story to life—reaching into the ‘what if’ of life and breathing energy into the first imagined bones—is the most exciting (and yet most difficult) part of writing. My second love is revision. It feels great having a finished draft—to have jumped the first hurdle—and be able to dig it and made it as good as I can.”

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

“I love hunkering down on the couch, with my laptop and mug of tea nearby, and re-reading what I’ve written the day before, tweaking and polishing, before I move on to a fresh page. For me, re-writing is the best part of writing!”

Trish Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Love, and Happily Ever After, A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances coming June 22, 2010):

“What I love most about the writing process is the way it helps me figure out how the different ideas in my head connect in the larger scheme of life. Writing about the things I care about is surprisingly revealing for me. Sometimes I’ll find myself someplace entirely different than where I thought a chapter was going…and it’s almost always better than what I’d planned. I love that there’s an element to writing that we don’t control…that as authors, we get to be surprised, too.”

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

“What I love most about my writing process:
I was going to answer “typing The End” when I’ve finished the first draft. But I don’t really type The End. Although it is true that I’m very very happy to be done with the first draft, which is the most difficult part of writing for me.”


Reminder: This Sunday, February 21st at 8:00 p.m. EST LIFETIME MOVIE NETWORK presents “Sins of the Mother,” based on Carleen Brice’s debut novel, Orange Mint and Honey. The movie has already received glowing reviews which can can be found in the post, Sins of the Mother Party Watch Checklist!

Announcement: The two winners, receiving a signed copy of Judy Merrill Larsen’s debut novel, All the Numbers, are Ellie Ann and Sue. Congratulations! Please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly. And thank you to all who entered.

Our Authors Favorite Love Stories

February 15, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

Although February celebrates Black History Month, Heart Month and Valentine’s Day, it also offers a quiet time in book releases. Now, of course new books are appearing on bookstore shelves, but the real flurry of spring/summer titles begins next month and almost overwhelms in April, May, June…

To take advantage of this quiet, cozy, snowbound time as well as to extend the warmth of Valentine’s Day, what would be better than a good love story? Our authors agreed and have chosen to share their favorites with you.


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

“Pride and Prejudice…I know, not very original, but it’s the one book I can honestly say that when I read the last word, I just wanted to start all over again.”

Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming in August 2010):

“My favorite love story is Roland Merullo’s A LITTLE LOVE STORY. Here’s what The New York Times wrote about it; I couldn’t agree more, and I couldn’t say it better myself: “Thoughtful, restrained (yet very sexy) … Merullo captures what it feels like when you meet ‘the one’–and what you’re willing to do to hold onto that person.” If you’re looking for an utterly romantic, highly readable, bittersweet page-turner, with a beautiful, redemptive ending, do yourself a favor and buy this book.”

Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters):

“My favorite love story is the one in What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage. It’s between a woman who has recently learned she’s HIV-positive and a man who was formerly in prison when he was a drug addict. They are both good people, clean and sober now, and very sweet. The guy has beautiful dreadlocks and drinks green tea and does yoga, so, of course, he’s my kinda guy!”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“Forgive me, this will sound like a shameless plug, but my honest answer is the story I’ve just finished writing, THE REMEDY (due out in early ’11). I am absolutely in love with my lovers, and so sympathetic toward their plight…

“One of the reasons I write love stories is because I’ve found few in contemporary literature that suit my desires as a reader–and I l-o-v-e a love story. It’s easier for me to name favorite love stories on film: SOMMERSBY, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE, and THE THORN BIRDS come to mind. And yes, I know the latter two are books as well–and I love the books–but the stories are even better-realized on film.”

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

“I have so many, but two that spring to mind right now are THE GOOD HUSBAND by Gail Godwin and EVIDENCE OF THINGS UNSEEN by Marianne Wiggins, both novels of long-term love and devotion.”

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

“Very very difficult to pick…one of many is Love in the Time of Cholera.”

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

“Any novel by Anne Tyler — she deals with love and relationships so beautifully and so truthfully.”

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“In Before and After, author Rosellen Brown writes about the depth of family love and the love between a husband and wife, offering spectacular prose, a page-turning plot, and non-stop insight into the character’s hearts. This story of a family caught in the most awful of circumstances—with a teenage son accused of an appalling crime—Brown manages to let the reader see every side of the story, feel sympathy for all, and most impressive, she presents a family at terrible odds with each other’s views, still fighting to stay together. At it’s heart, this is a love story, and it is my favorite.”

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

“I can’t pick just one… there are so many great love stories out there!”

Trish Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Love, and Happily Ever After, A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances coming June 22, 2010):

“My favorite love story is pretty much any tale where we get to watch someone learn who they are and how to love better than they thought they could. My favorite novels in this category are too numerous to narrow down…the best example I can think of is the movie “How To Lose A Guy In 10 Dates or Less.” Kate Hudson’s character thinks she wants one thing in life (to write “real” articles about serious subjects) but discovers that life is bigger than she expected when love is added into the mix. By the end of the film, she wants more from life than she would have asked for in the beginning. (Also, I’m a sucker for a happy ending involving a chase scene!)”

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

“My favorite love story: Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Mars Freedman”

Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much a heart can hold.
~Zelda Fitzgerald

To be continued…next week.

Happy Holidays from Barrie Summy, Tish Cohen, and Therese Walsh

December 17, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Holidays

The greetings continue with another recipe and favorite movies, music…even books!


Barrie’s Butter Tarts

BarrietmbGrowing up, we spent most weekends from May to October and a month in the summer at our cottage. Besides the regular activities like water skiing, swimming, board games and reading in the sun, my family loved a trip to Don’s Bakery in Bala, Ontario for delicious, mouth-watering butter tarts.

Now, I live in San Diego, a land bereft of butter tarts, and I’ve been forced to learn to bake them. Because I’m not particularly gifted in the kitchen, I generally only bake butter tarts once a year. And that would be at the holidays.

So, a food that was a summer tradition for me as a child has become a holiday tradition for my children.

First, I start with a tart shell. Here’s the recipe from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook:

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound cold butter, in small pieces
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, process the flour, salt and butter quickly. Through the funnel, add the egg yolk and ice water and process until the dough balls up. Wrap in foil and place in fridge for 20 min. Then roll out, cut circles with a cup and press into mold. Prick bottom of tarts with a fork and bake unfilled at 425 for 7 min. (The recipe says 12 min., but that was too long.)

The butter tart recipe I use is from a Mennonite cookbook: Food That Really Schmecks.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons butter (not margarine!), melted
1 Tablespoon water (or less if you use a large egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat egg. Add brown sugar. Beat again. Add remaining ingredients. Fill shells 1/2 full. Bake at 450 for 15 min. (I only baked for 12 min., so start checking the tarts early).

The first trick is to make sure the filling stays slightly runny. So, don’t overcook.

The second trick is to not eat too many at one sitting.
Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky Ages 9 – 12)


Tish’s Best Holiday Entertainment

TishtmbBest Christmas CD: Charlie Brown Christmas music by Vince Guaraldi.
Best Christmas book: Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher.
Best Christmas movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.
Best Christmas show: A Charlie Brown Christmas. The only trouble is, it’s way too short.
Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA)


Therese’s Glorious and Classic Choices

ThereseWtmbI’m going to choose something unusual but glorious as my fave song: O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen. It’s a choir piece, sung a capella, with haunting and breathtaking harmonics.
Book: The Night Before Christmas.
Movie: A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy)

Barrie Summy’s I So Don’t Do Spooky

December 07, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

According to the Random House Author Spotlight on Barrie Summy, she and her two younger sisters grew up following their parents’ rules. And the author admits:

“One of the toughest and meanest rules was about books. The mother and father divided books into two groups: meat-and-potato books and dessert books. The rule went like this: You could read as many meat-and-potato books in a row as you wanted, but you had to read at least one meat-and-potato book to get to a dessert book. Nancy Drew mysteries were dessert books.The smartest and bravest and most beautiful daughter (that’s the first daughter, in case you’ve forgotten) loved Nancy Drew mysteries more than anything in world. She vowed to her sisters that she would grow up and write a Nancy Drew mystery. Maybe even two, in a row. She might even write a meat-and-potato book, but she’d definitely start with Nancy Drew. As it turns out, she grew up and wrote I So Don’t Do Mysteries starring thirteen-year-old Sherry Holmes Baldwin. And discovered it was much tougher to write a book than to read ten meat-and-potato books back to back.”

Nevertheless Barrie prevailed and her second Sherry Holmes Baldwin book, I So Don’t Do Spooky, (for middle-grade readers) will be released tomorrow, December 8, 2009, just in time for the holidays which are of course known for their sweets and desserts.

Now are you’re wondering how the author convinces reluctant Sherry Baldwin to give in and do spooky? It’s basically the same reason why she did mysteries — for her mom, a policewoman, who died in a drug bust well over a year ago, and is now a ghost able only to make contact with her daughter. Mom is still on duty, though, trying her best to solve crimes. Since that’s a bit difficult from the spirit world, she enlists Sherry’s real life resourcefulness, determination, and bravery as they become a mother-daughter team. And, while their first solving of a mystery had a more general feel, their spooky adventure is much more personal. Read Sherry’s explanation in this synopsis:

Someone’s out to get Sherry’s stepmom. . . .Can she save her before it’s too late?

Did you know that the main campus of the Academy of Spirits is at a Dairy Queen in Phoenix? Me either. Until now. Some weird stuff has been happening to my stepmother, Paula, and the Academy has asked me, Sherry Holmes Baldwin, to get to the bottom of it. They think someone’s trying to hurt her.

I really don’t want to get involved — my life is way too busy. Josh and I are celebrating two blissful months of togetherness. And my best friend, Junie, is finally showing a teeny bit of interest in clothes and makeup after years of brainiac behavior. But being that my mom is a ghost and all, me, my brother, and my dad rely on Paula a lot. So it’s not like I can just ignore what’s going on. Especially since my mom is competing at the Ghostlympics. If she comes in first place, she earns five minutes of Real Time.

And that means I’ve got to get involved in a creepy, freaky mystery.

But . . . I so don’t do spooky.

Clear, isn’t it, from a typical 13-year old? Now Sherry must help her mom to protect her stepmom from harm. For more clarification, there’s the I So Don’t Do Spooky Book Trailer:

Although it’s been a year since I So Don’t Do Mysteries debuted, I So Don’t Do Spooky picks up only two months later. Within that time frame, though, Sherry has matured to the point of accepting her stepmom. In fact that’s the primary backstory for the book as Barrie explains:

“Part of the trick, I think, in writing a good mystery is to give the detective a strong reason to solve it. A reason more compelling than mere curiosity. There are a few solid reasons for Sherry to buy into a case involving her stepmother. The Ruler is now family PLUS the Academy of Spirits assigns her the case PLUS her mother wants The Ruler safe and able to care for her children.

“As time goes on, Sherry comes to appreciate The Ruler more and more. That said, The Ruler is a parent figure and ALL that entails to a tween! 😉 Hmmm…..and I do like that the reader often sees the truer, gentler side of The Ruler, and it’s Sherry who’s playing catch up.”

Having read the Advanced Reader Copy, what this fairy godmother liked was that a young adolescent could work through her feelings of losing a mother, gaining a stepmother and understanding that — on different levels — they’re both there for her and it all makes sense in a quirky way. Yet Sherry isn’t a quirk character.

Instead Barrie has created a very believable 13-year old who would rather shop than study, stereotypes her peers, and spends far too much time flirting with and kissing her boyfriend Josh. While I’d rather have all of the above left out of the novel (why perpetuate this behavior?), it does allow the reader to accept Sherry as “real” despite her paranormal activities. Also, to be fair, the author redeems her heroine who ultimately gets her priorities straight.

I So Don’t Do Spooky is seriously fun with lessons of life to be learned from a mystery. And, while Barrie Summy’s parents thought of Nancy Drew books as dessert, Sherry Holmes Baldwin books are tasty treats with substance — the perfect choice for gift-giving to any young girl in your life!

Announcement: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Barrie Summy’s I So Don’t Do Spooky. To enter, please leave a comment on this post by Wednesday evening at 7:00 p.m. EST. The winners will be chosen from a random drawing and announced here in Thursday’s post.

The Revealing of Barrie Summy

November 25, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

barrie child cropped
Yes that’s a picture of Barrie Summy, a young Barrie — of course — but since she’s the author of humorous middle-grade mysteries…well it seems appropriate. Barrie debuted with I So Don’t Do Mysteries exactly one year ago and her second book, I So Don’t Do Spooky will be released on December 8, 2009 and is scheduled to be presented here on Monday, December 7th.

According to her “official” bio on the backflap book jacket cover:

Barrie Summy grew up in Canada on a steady diet of books and tobogganing. She tries to read a book a week and always breaks for tea and cookies at three o’clock.

Barrie lives in California with her husband and their four children. She’s currently hard at work on her next book.

But now let’s meet the real Barrie or — at least — as much as she’s inclined to seriously reveal:

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Bird by bird (based on Anne LaMott’s book: Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: It’s 78 degrees Fahrenheit with a slight breeze. I’m sitting on a decently webbed chair by a lake in Muskoka, Ontario with a good book in my hands and a cup of hot tea and a butter tart next to me. My children are happy and healthy and firmly on the way to figuring out their lives. My spouse is not snoring. My next book is written and in to the editor, ahead of schedule. All I have to do is read. Relax and read.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Having to lead an aerobics class

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Women

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: Put your dishes in the dishwasher. Is your homework done? The project is due when??

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: A sense of direction.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Seriously? Ha! I am so not revealing my greatest flaw for all the cyber world to see. I will, however, reveal a lesser flaw. It is this: I have been known to leave my bed unmade for an entire day.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: A decent sense of humor.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My highlights. Of course, anyone can have them. Just pay my hairdresser a visit.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: This changes depending on which book I’m reading.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: I don’t think I have one.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Drivers who don’t pull forward at the gas pump.

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

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Being on a team of writers for a TV show.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Honesty, humor, neatness. Hmmm…Originally, I typed “neatness” as a joke, but now I’m thinking that the more my children become messy teens, the more important neatness has become to me!

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

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; The Gate to Women’s Country; Alias Grace; Lives of Girls and Women; Ladder of Years; The Inn at Lake Devine; The Chrysalids, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging. Oh, oops. More than five. Sorry.

Funny, kind and very thoughtful (after all she just apologized *G*), get to know Barrie even better by becoming her friend on Facebook.


Wishing you all a most happy, healthy and safe traveling Thanksgiving. May it be filled/stuffed with love and warm memories with family/friends!

And remember Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand will be giving away two copies of Love in Translation. To enter, please leave a comment on this post before the deadline of Saturday, November 28th at 11:59 p.m. EST. Due to the busy holiday week, this contest is being extended and the winners — based on a random drawing — will be announced here in the Monday, November 30th post.