The Divining Wand

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Karen McQuestion and A Scattered Life

September 27, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Although much has been written about Karen McQuestion’s extraordinary journey to publishing success (including Guest Karen McQuestion on Keeping the Faith), the most important story remains between the covers of her debut novel, A Scattered Life. After all that was the Kindle book optioned for film, adored by ebook readers, and put Karen — not only on the literary map — but in The Wall Street Journal as well.

So what’s it all about? Simply put, the novel’s story is based on a friendship triangle between three women and explores the author’s fascination with the idea of feeling like an outsider in your own family.

Acknowledging that her fiction is basically character-driven and the plot evolves from the characters’ actions, Karen began writing A Scattered Life with the following scene in mind:

“A shy man has a crush on a waitress who works at a Mexican restaurant. He’s thirtyish and conservative, almost nerdy, and she’s much younger, a free spirit who is at loose ends in the world. He’s been coming in to the restaurant to watch her, never quite getting up the nerve to talk to her until something unexpected happens.”

Now add the details that the scene takes place in a Wisconsin small town with the Green Bay Packers playing on Monday Night Football and the reader is likely to take a leap of faith and be drawn into the action too.

To share a bit more, here is the synopsis:

When free-spirited Skyla marries proper and predictable Thomas Plinka, she finally finds the love and stability she’s craved since childhood. She also acquires a new family: mother-in-law Audrey, disapproving and suspicious of Skyla’s nomadic past; father-in-law Walt, gruff but kind; and Thomas’s brothers, sofa-bound Jeffrey, and Dennis, who moved across the country seemingly to avoid the family.

Skyla settles into marriage and motherhood, but quiet life in small-town Wisconsin can’t quell feelings of restlessness. Then into her life comes Madame Picard, the local psychic from the disreputable bookstore, Mystic Books, and new neighbor, Roxanne, whose goal in life is to have twelve kids even though she can’t manage the five she has. Despite her family’s objections, Skyla befriends Roxanne and gets a job at the bookstore, and life gets fuller and more complicated than she ever imagined.

Next enjoy a lovely Video for A Scattered Life.

If the video reminds you of a quiet, somewhat simpler life, settle into Skyla’s neighborhood. It is there that the author has created a place reminiscent of the way people used to connect — on a one-on-one basis — and care about each other. However, despite the comfort zone feeling, this story of three women and their daily routines is not without problems.

Funny, poignant and incredibly honest, The Divining Wand wondered if the characters told Karen their stories or if the tales were written around them? And she said:

“I have heard other writers say that characters “speak” to them, but I’ve never had that experience. I usually have an impression of who my characters are, and a situation, and I work from there. On several occasions, I’ve tried to plot things out ahead of time. It seems the most sensible way to do things, but I’ve never been able to make plotting or outlining work. Once I know the whole storyline, I find that I don’t want to write it because it feels like homework. The fun of writing is finding out what happens next. For me, writing fiction feels more like discovering than creating, and I’ll often have eureka moments–oh, now I know why she was acting that way! I always aim for a happy (or at least hopeful) ending, but I never really know how it’s going to go until I get there.”

TRUST: The above explanation could be the most telling of the author’s success in writing genuine and appealing novels. For Karen McQuestion focuses on what intrigues her about universal human truths — those that are likely our own truths. A Scattered Life highlights this fact by presenting three unforgettable women who actually are Everywomen at some point in life. And, while their personalities and immediate situations differ, they all know (or have known) how it feels to be left out. Whether it’s the young wife, the next door neighbor with five sons, or the mother-in-law, these women share the desire to belong and feel needed.

Independence, strength, and accepting others for who they are go a long way towards belonging. Or it could be as simple as applying the wise words of “Open your heart.” In A Scattered Life, the reader will undoubtedly recognize at least one character as someone she knows and then realize the extent to which lives are intertwined. Karen McQuestion’s novel also reminds how important daily lives are, no matter how mundane they may seem because even small details make a difference later.

Author (The Dogs of Babal, Lost and Found, and The Nobodies Album) Carolyn Parkhurst Reviews “A Scattered Life” and concludes with the following:

McQuestion writes with a sharp eye and a sure voice, and as a reader, I was willing to go wherever she wanted to take me. After I finished the book, I thought about how I might describe it to a friend, and I settled on a phrase that says a lot without saying very much at all. It’s the way these conversations usually end: “You should read this. It’s good.”

Yes you should read this book. It’s much better than good!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Karen McQuestion’s A Scattered Life 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, September 29, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Jenny Nelson and Georgia’s Kitchen

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


According to Jenny Nelson, the best advice she ever received on writing a novel was, “to write the book I wanted to read.” It took years to complete but when the author debuted with Georgia’s Kitchen on August 3, 2010, she had told a story that also appealed to countless readers. The proof: Five star reviews at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders!

Ah reviews, the author’s main character Georgia Gray knows them well. From the novel’s title one would expect the storyline to be character driven and Jenny confirms this by saying:

“When I started writing what would eventually become Georgia’s Kitchen, I had already decided: I wanted to read about a chef. A successful, funny, savvy, thirty-something chef who’s arrived at her position with some difficulty, but who clearly belongs where she is. Someone who’s both tough and vulnerable, who doesn’t disappear into the wallpaper, who rises to the occasion (except when she doesn’t – and there are definitely a few of these moments in Georgia’s Kitchen!) and who wouldn’t even consider giving up without a fight.”

Of course Georgia had to earn her reputation in the best of locations to be believable and the debut novelist went for the brass rings:

‘The setting was never in question: New York City, the big-time for chefs and one of my favorite places in the world. And because I’m a huge Italiaphile who loves all things Italy (food, wine, people, architecture, film, clothing, design), I decided to send Georgia to Italy, mecca for chefs. ”

On the other hand, Jenny did not want her first book to be merely, entertaining, occasionally glamorous, and even humorous. Instead she wanted: “Georgia to deal with real emotions and conflict, to be pushed outside her comfort zone and, ultimately, to triumph. I wanted a heroine I could root for until the very last page.”

The bottom line: Georgia was created to be a woman of substance and her story evolved into this synopsis:

Getting burned—in and out of the kitchen—might be the best thing that ever happened to Georgia Gray.

At 33, talented chef Georgia Gray has everything a woman could want—the top job at one of Manhattan’s best restaurants, a posse of smart and savvy gal pals who never let her down, and a platinum-set, cushion-cut diamond engagement ring courtesy of Glenn, the handsome entertainment lawyer who Georgia’s overbearing mother can’t wait for her to marry. The table is set for the ambitious bride-to-be until a scathing restaurant review destroys her reputation. To add salt to her wounds, Glenn suddenly calls off the wedding.

Brokenhearted, Georgia escapes to the Italian countryside, where she sharpens her skills at a trattoria run by a world-class chef who seems to have it all—a devoted lover, a magnificent villa, and most importantly, a kitchen of her own. Georgia quells her longings with Italy’s delectable offerings: fine wine, luscious cheeses, cerulean blue skies, and irresistible Gianni, an expert in the vineyard and the bedroom. So when Gianni tempts Georgia to stay in Italy with an offer no sane top chef could refuse, why can’t she say yes?

An appetite for something more looms large in Georgia’s heart – the desire to run her own restaurant in the city she loves. But having left New York with her career in flames, she’ll need to stir up more than just courage if she’s to realize her dreams and find her way home.

In addition to readers’ raves, there’s professional Praise AND the Excerpt of Chapter One.

Also view the video for an opportunity to Step Inside Georgia’s Kitchen with Jenny Nelson.

However the actual behind-the-scenes look into Georgia’s life and the restaurants that she finds herself working in are flawlessly described by the author’s writing. This book is a sensory feast that allows the reader to smell, taste, see, hear, and touch everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, to the crowded streets of Manhattan, and finally a peaceful garden villa in the Italian countryside. The breathtaking depth of description flows, reading as a natural (and necessary) complement to Georgia’s tale. How was Jenny able to weave the two together so effortlessly? The Divining Wand asked and the author replied:

“I really focus on what I see in my head and jot down first impressions, usually very long-winded first impressions, and then edit that down to its essence so that I’m saying as little as I can while being as evocative as possible. Does that make sense? I love description, especially as a counter balance to dialogue, so it was very important to me to get it right”

Right? Let’s say the author nailed it! But to write from the perspective of restaurant chef — complete with daily kitchen procedure and business operations –, how did Jenny manage that?

“I interviewed tons of chefs (I’m friendly with several and most are all too happy to talk about themselves!), but never observed a kitchen in a formal way.”

And for what was probably the best part of her research, the author says:

“I ate a lot! I studied menus and recipes and ate in as many restaurants as my waistline and my wallet could afford. It was a blast.”

All of the above, of course, is fun, enlightening, and showcases the world in which Georgia Gray works and lives. An independent young woman with determined ambition, she’s on track personally and professionally….but lacks happiness. The reason? Perhaps it’s because other people’s expectations for what she should be doing don’t fit into her personal timeline. Or perhaps she only thinks she knows her wants and needs….at the moment.

Refreshingly honest, this character accepts what is beyond her control and bounces back to try again. Indeed she’s vulnerable but the lack of whining and/or playing the blame game will have — as Jenny wanted — readers rooting her on until the last page. Besides Georgia has learned through her life experiences that settling for anything other than your dream does not offer happiness.

In time somehow the path to one’s dreams is found and, if still looking for yours, its inspired direction might be discovered somewhere within the pages of Georgia’s Kitchen. Enjoy!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Jenny Nelson’s Georgia’s Kitchen 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, September 22, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Keetha DePriest Mosley and Culinary Kudzu(s)

July 21, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the Book’s Back Cover

Kudzu. That quintessential Southern vine that seems to envelop everything in its path and can’t be deterred. Much like this indefatigable creeper, Southern culture seems to have ingratiated itself into every aspect of our daily lives. Nowhere is that presence more apparent than in the kitchen. Long have Southerners appreciated and embraced the joys and memorable times that accompany good food and good friends.

Almost five years ago, Keetha DePriest Mosley [formerly Reed] (Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern) enjoyed her freelance catering jobs, while working in public relations for her hometown hospital and writing a food/entertaining/growing up life column for the Clarion-Ledger newspaper. She didn’t need Julia Child to be her inspiration for a cooking/essay book, instead it was the favorable responses from her newspaper readers that encouraged her to write
Culinary Kudzu.

The wonderful, visual title…where did it come from, Keetha?

“I don’t rightly remember how I came up with the title. I wrote down a bunch of words, southern words. I knew I wanted the title to be immediately identifiable as being southern. Kudzu is such a strange thing and specific to the Deep South (I believe) and I like alliteration. So it just worked!”

Here’s an example of kudzu from Keetha’s blog post, Don’t stand still.

Now, by reading the book’s description, you’ll understand how perfectly kudzu applies to culinary dishes and times that wrap around one’s heart:

A charming mix of tips and ideas for entertaining and gifts of food, coupled with rich tales of growing up in the small-town South. This lively book reads like a kitchen conversation with an old friend.

It’s homey and loving as both professional and book buyer reviews agree:

“More than a cookbook, [Culinary Kudzu] is a delightful collection of essays with seasonal themes, each one accompanied by a recipe or two…Reed takes readers on nostalgic trips…this book is a winner,” Today in Mississippi

“Culinary Kudzu is a fantastic find. As I read, I was reminded of my own childhood growing up in the south. Reed’s recollections were entertaining, her tips useful, and recipes fantastic. Whether you were reared on such southern foods and stories or just interested in exploring samplings from the region, Culinary Kudzu leaves a satisfying taste. I can’t wait for Reed to serve up seconds,” says Laura in Oxford, Mississippi

Laura in Oxford, Mississippi only had to wait two years for More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern.

“Keetha DePriest Reed’s second book, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, is as warm and light as a buttermilk biscuit and refreshingly sweet as your grandmama’s iced tea with a sprig of mint…Keetha skillfully and tenderly looks to her past while driving forward to provide the same sense of wonderment and security for her son.” Delta Magazine

Keetha shares her life moments in a conversational tone that jogs the reader’s own memories from everything to catching lightening bugs on a hot summer night, sitting around a Thanksgiving table and listening to relatives tell their stories, and how Fall — though brief in the Deep South — is her favorite season as it well may be yours. And, while she writes without pretense, the author writes with a confidence that comes from honesty and caring. It’s no wonder that the following observations made me smile:

“This book is as sweet as a Smith County watermelon on the 4th of July; as fresh as spring water; as tender as the first greens in winter. Keetha is way too young to be so knowing and so good at what she’s doing. More Culinary Kudzu has terrific recipes combined with wise, finely crafted essays…” says Judy Tucker, writer and playwright.

Ah, regarding the 4th of July, take a look at what Keetha posted on July 5, 2010, as Oh, Yeah:

“Four cups chopped frozen watermelon, 1/3 cup vodka, two mint leaves, and a handful of ice whirred around in the blender until it’s slushy.

Summer in a glass.”

Notice, no cooking required! In fact during summer in the Delta — from April though mid-October — the key is to avoid kitchen “heat” as much as possible. Mother Nature helps with this by providing an abundance of home/state grown fruits and vegetables always ripe for a variety of salads and other cold dishes. Of course exceptions are made and on Sunday, July 11, 2010, the author posted the recipe for Tomato Tart and even confessed:

“Up until I made this tart, I didn’t like tomatoes, not even a little bit. Not on a burger or sandwich or salad. Now, though…”

If you read The Divining Wand’s Guest Keetha DePriest Mosley on Creating Time, you’ll remember the author’s feelings:

“It’s funny about living in a small town, and loving it so much, because when I was younger, I knew Manhattan is where I would live. I would have a sophisticated job and buy flowers from the little carts on the way home. I’d live in a loft and go to art galleries and whatever else it was sophisticated people did. I was going to be fabulous.

I realized – in time – that I could be fabulous right here in Mississippi but finding time, or, rather, making time to do what I really wanted to do was a challenge.”

Keetha DePriest Mosley is making her life fabulous as she turns her sights from writing about real life to pure fictional storytelling. Working now on her first novel — set in the Delta –, she’s on target to finish writing it by the end of the year. Then, she says, “all I have to do is revise, edit, get an agent, and get it published.”

And when that happens, the novel is certain to be fabulous and heartfelt. Yet for now, there are Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, and More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, both to be enjoyed!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Education of Bet in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Education of Bet. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to possibly claim your book.

AND

The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Keetha DePriest Mosley’s Culinary Kudzu and one copy of More Culinary Kudzu in a random drawing to two separate individuals who comment only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Friday, July 23, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Monday’s post. If you enter, please return Monday to possibly claim your book.

Guest Robin Antalek on Raising (Writing) Good Characters

June 22, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Robin Antalek, in her debut novel The Summer We Fell Apart, (Facebook) introduces the reader to four main characters — all siblings in a dysfunctional family. In today’s guest post she describes the toil and toll required to birth, develop, and then let each one go out into the world…even beyond the book’s pages.]

During the process of writing The Summer We Fell Apart I was a mess. These characters and their lives were so demanding of my emotional well-being (including some very non-hygienic periods – ick –sorry) that I nearly had nothing left for my daughters’, my husband, and my friends … you name it, I ignored it could have been my motto. In many ways it resembled those first few months of motherhood when I survived on instinct and very little else. Then and only then I was as in tune with my infant daughter (now 19) in the most basic of ways, our cyclical routine of: sleep, eat, burp, diaper, hardly varied from hour to hour and day to day for months on end. I existed only for her nourishment and needs.

Except here – in my fictional world — I could re-write the scene from the day before. I could change a word, delete a paragraph, erase a conversation, and alter the mood, all without excess emotional attachment. Or could I?

As the characters grew in my head, on the page, and into the story, there were things so intrinsic that even if I wanted to – I couldn’t mess with. When I tried to re-write their lives it just came up false and I knew – I knew – that no matter what I would have to allow them to be who they were meant to be for better or worse. As a parent and now as a writer, this was one of the hardest lessons I ever learned: your baby (characters) had to fail, it was inevitable and you had to stand by and let them as much as you wanted to run ahead screaming danger and pointing out the bad guys.

The writing life – creating character, plot, theme and story is not so unlike those early days of motherhood. As I was submerged in the world of my newborn – so was I in the “newborn-ness” (so not a word – forgive me) of Amy, George, Finn and Kate Haas. I only worked on one character and their section of the novel at a time – so through the course of the book I metaphorically gave birth four times – and if you think they didn’t demand all my attention – including stealing some serious sleep – you would be wrong. As if I raised quadruplets, this crew was in my face the entire two years it took from conception to birth.

Because of my process, or maybe in spite of, who knows, readers identify strongly with these fictional siblings. And two of the questions I always get from readers whether it’s a book club visit or via mail is: who is your favorite? And, are they all okay? I have to answer in all honesty that some of the siblings were easier to be around than the others at times (as are my own beautiful girls’) – but I am hard pressed to choose a favorite. It would be tantamount to choosing between my children. The answer to the second question? Well that gives me chills every time – in the asking and the answer. It’s what all of us as parents hope for our own children: they are okay, they are making their way in the world. They will figure it out, there’s hope. Always, always, hope.

The Summer We Fell Apart has taken on a life of its own – as have Amy, Kate, George and Finn. And in the words of their mother, Marilyn, “…it is more than I ever imagined.”

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Trish Ryan’s latest memoir, A Maze of Grace in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Trish Ryan and A Maze of Grace. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, June 23, 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.

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

June 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Although its title and description may sound like a fairy tale, the collaborative memoir, Three Wishes:A True Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak, and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Love and Motherhood by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand, is a 21st century non-fiction account of how anything is possible through traditional hope and love.

Once upon a time — ten years ago — these three successful, connected, savvy journalists began to realize a personal deadline was looming. Their careers had made headlines while relationships had been “cut” for limited time/space/interest. Although single and approaching forty, they still dreamed of “having it all”….or, at least, one baby.

Three Wishes tells the story of of these three friends who transformed their lives when they decided to take control in making motherhood happen.

Here, in Video form, is the book’s backstory:

Then the Three Wishes synopsis:

Carey, Beth, and Pam had succeeded at work but failed at romance, and each resolved to have a baby before time ran out. Just one problem: no men.

Carey took the first bold step towards single motherhood, searching anonymous donor banks until she found the perfect match. What she found was not a father in a vial, but a sort of magic potion. She met a man, fell in love, and got pregnant the old-fashioned way.

She passed the vials to Beth, and it happened again. Beth met man, Beth got pregnant. Beth passed the vials to Pam, and the magic struck again. There were setbacks and disappointments, but three women became three families, reveling in the shared joy of love, friendship, and never losing hope.

The Reviews are glowing and Three Wishes was selected as a “TOME OF THE BRAVE” Pick for the June issue of Oprah’s O! Magazine.

When Pamela Ferdinand contacted me to offer a Q&A interview or the opportunity to review this triple memoir, how could I resist what sounded perfect for The Divining Wand? Yet ARCS were piled high and the site’s posts booked solid with new releases/debuts. So before even reading the book, I was introduced to Carey, Beth, and Pamela (live) during their April 21st interview on TODAY. Please take this opportunity to meet them, too, by Launching the Video.

Would you like to browse through the book? That wish can be granted as well:

What good fortune all this information is available about the authors and their book, yet what about actual storytelling?

With each author having her own compelling and complicated experiences to tell, they take turns in sharing their journeys to motherhood in alternating chapters. Carey leads off by being the first to seek wish fulfillment by purchasing the vials of donor sperm, Beth follows, and then Pamela. Each voice is as unique as their personal circumstances along with their individual timelines. For, remember, Carey has already made her decision to opt for single parenthood via medical technology or has she?

Because when Carey meets the man who will eventually become the father of her children and her husband, that’s when wishing only for a child turns into wanting much more. True, she does use one vial of donor sperm, but the procedure is unsuccessful. Seven vials remain but now there’s a man in her life and, even if he doesn’t want to commit to being a father…perhaps a donor?

Yes all three women meet their match but even the best relationships are messy and oh so vulnerable. In fact it’s the sheer candidness of sharing everything the authors and their mates live through that makes Three Wishes most impressive. How did they manage to reveal such personal and intimate details of their lives? I asked Pamela and she replied: “It wasn’t easy to share all those details, but we felt an obligation to do so — as journalists who asked such personal details of other people; as women who want to encourage other women to be able to share their experiences; and as authors who feel the most interesting stories are the most honest ones.”

Three Wishes is much more than a book about choosing motherhood as a single woman. Instead it relates what can happen when a wish becomes a goal in life as opposed to an unspoken breath blowing out birthday candles. If by definition “a dream is a wish your heart makes,” then — in order to make it real — you need to share it with others. By opening your heart, you’ll be opening that wish to possibilities, suggestions, support, alternatives, and the unexpected. As Pamela wrote in her post, Guest Pamela Ferdinand Makes A Wish?:

“I fell in love only when my heart was open wider than ever because, in accepting the sperm, I had accepted the possibilities of a non-traditional route to motherhood and family. Of a non-linear life, when anything could happen, in any order.”

Three Wishes:A True Story of Good Friends, Crushing Heartbreak, and Astonishing Luck on Our Way to Love and Motherhood is for anyone who believes that, while miracles do happen and wishes are granted, most of what one yearns for requires time, extreme effort, and heartfelt strength. If you want to be reminded, inspired, or simply awed by those truths, please read how Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand created their own magic to produce three wishes.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of the triple memoir Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand 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 16, 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.

Carleen Brice and Children of the Waters

June 22, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Books

CotWatersbn

Last spring, Carleen Brice’s debut novel, Orange Mint & Honey (which was optioned by the Lifetime Movie Network) instantly became a #1 Denver Post best-seller and Essence Magazine Recommended Read. Yet there was more. Later in 2008, this writer won the Breakout Author of the Year Award from the African American Literary Awards Show and in 2009 she received the First Novel Award from the Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Carleen is also a finalist for the 2009 Colorado Book Award in literary fiction. And, with such wonderful recognition for Orange Mint & Honey, one might wonder what this author will do for an encore? That answer can be found within the pages of Children of the Waters to be released tomorrow, June 23, 2009.

A visit to the writer’s Home page offers a quick glimpse of the book with this early praise:

“I was exhausted and singing the blues the hour I began Carleen Brice’s new novel, Children of the Waters. Five hours later, I’d finished this fresh, free-rein novel about mothers’ secrets and children’s sorrows and was shouting ‘Hurray!'”__ Jacquelyn Mitchard author, The Deep End of the Ocean

“In Children of the Waters, Carleen Brice manages to explore the difficult, messy and unpleasant details of life with both humor and wisdom. The parallel journeys of sisters, Trish and Billie, will resonate with everyone and anyone who has questioned their identity and place in this world. Once again, Carleen Brice has crafted a thoroughly enjoyable novel that gets at the heart of the human experience.”__ Lori Tharps, author of Kinky Gazpacho

“In Children of the Waters, Carleen Brice highlights the effects of America’s complicated relationship with race and identity on three generations of two families in a clear and insightful depiction of what it means to be American at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Brice knows how far we have come and how far there is left to go, and in Children of the Waters she deflty lays it all out for the reader to see.”__ Matthew Aaron Goodman, author of Hold Love Strong

“In Children of the Waters, Carleen Brice deftly explores issues of family, identity, and race with a wonderful abundance of humor, forgiveness, and grace. This moving story of two sisters separated by prejudice will open minds and touch hearts.”__ Meg Waite Clayton, author of The Wednesday Sisters

Carleen’s focus is once again on family and she has an interesting backstory to Children of the Waters (actually her first novel but after 100 pages, she got stumped and put it away):

“The center of this novel is loosely based on a true story — one of my sisters-in-law is biracial and was given up for adoption while her birth sister, who is white, was kept by the family. When my sister-in-law told me about being found by her birth sister, I thought it was an amazing story. But I changed some things, of course, to make the story it’s own.”

And that backstory evolved into this Synopsis:

The author of the #1 Denver Post bestseller and Essence Book Club Pick Orange Mint and Honey explores the connection between love and race, and what it really means to be a family

Trish Taylor’s white ancestry never got in the way of her love for her black ex-husband, or their mixed race son, Will. But when Trish’s marriage ends, she returns to her family’s Denver, Colorado home to find a sense of identity and connect to her past.

What she finds there shocks her to the very core: her mother and newborn sister were not killed in a car crash as she was told. In fact, her baby sister, Billie Cousins, is now a grown woman; her grandparents had put her up for adoption, unwilling to raise the child of a black man. Billie, who had no idea she was adopted, wants nothing to do with Trish until a tragedy in Billie’s own family forces her to lean on her surprisingly supportive and sympathetic sister. Together they unravel age-old layers of secrets and resentments and navigate a path toward love, healing, and true reconciliation.

*****

If you have yet to read Orange Mint & Honey, please see the presentation post, A Meme of Orange Mint & Honey, to better understand what a smart, refreshing and realistic storyteller Carleen Brice truly is. In fact she’s also provided parts of Children of the Waters first three chapters in this Excerpt

Even in those early pages, do you hear the author’s strong voice on the importance of family and the values of family and friendship and belonging? Carleen admits that family has always been the core of her life — thanks to her grandparents — and she’s passing the message on to her readers. However it’s possible that this writer is offering something more priceless. Last August 7, 2008, Carleen posted Am I the Obama of Fiction? by initially noting:

“I’ve always been confused about what a writing voice is. Until now. Lori Tharp (Kinky Gazpacho) posted a kind review of Orange Mint and Honey, and is one of the umpteen people who’ve noted that my characters could have been any race. I’ve heard very often that the story is “‘universal.'”

“At first, I was perplexed by these type of responses. Why was it worth noting that a book with black characters was universal? Wasn’t that a given? Then, I was a little angry and I wondered if racism didn’t play a part. But then black readers started to tell me the same thing. So I went back to perplexed. I still don’t know why this should be deemed so unusual. Do you think it is?

“This is my world view. This is my life. There are all different kinds of people in it and while I definitely acknowledge and honor differences between my African American, Latino, & white family members and friends, mostly we’re pretty much alike. Finally, coming from Flyover Country pays off! Because that is how my voice was formed. In Omaha, I lived on the same block with and went to school with white, Native American, Hispanic, Asian and black kids. My family has every kind of color in it.”

And this is how Carleen Brice, through her universal voice, has told a tale of living in today’s America — entitled Children of the Waters. TRUST: You will be entertained and enlightened, enjoying every moment spent in the company of her storytelling!

[Note: This novel can also be purchased online at: Borders, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound.

And for more of Carleen, beyond her pages, visit The Pajama Gardener and White Readers Meet Black Authors.]