The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Summer’s TBR Lists

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

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

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

This week the following writers replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

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

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

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

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

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

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

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

To be continued….

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

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

Favorite Fictional Worlds, I

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

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

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

This week the following writers replied:

~ Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

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

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

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

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

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

~Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

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

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

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

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

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

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

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

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

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

To be continued….

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

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

What If….Therese Walsh, Holly LeCraw, and Alicia Bessette?

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

What a day — or more — for a daydream in the summer heat of July. In fact it feels like the perfect time to wonder “what if” The Divining Wand possessed magical powers and could grant authors, who create their own magic with “what if,” the following two questions:

Based only on their writing, what author would you want to be?


If given the opportunity to have written ONE book in your lifetime, what would that title be?

~ Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy in Hardcover, The Last Will of Moira Leahy coming in Trade Paperback on August 3, 2010, also chosen as a TARGET BREAKOUT BOOK):

“Ray Bradbury. He’s simply brilliant.”

“The Wizard of Oz is a fantastical story with iconic characters. It’s inspired a classic film, unique spin-off novels, and even a Broadway play. Not to mention the millions of Halloween costumes…”

~ Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“I’d want to be Virginia Woolf, and I’d want to have written To the Lighthouse.”

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

“LM Montgomery & Le Petit Prince.”

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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.

More Blogs Favored by Our Authors

June 24, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

How about learning more of the enlightening, entertaining blogs that our authors favor on a daily basis? You might enjoy following along with:

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

~ The Divining Wand –

~ The Debutante Ball! –

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

~ LOL Cats –

~ LOL Dogs –

~ I love food sites, this is one of my favorite baking sites. What this woman can do with cake is amazing.

~ Yarn Harlot. Knitting is a hobby so this is fun place to troll

~ It Made My Day People write in with something they saw/did etc that made their day.

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool)

~ The Rejectionist –

~ The Intern –

~ The Forest for the Trees –

~ Facebook –

~ The Divining Wand –

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

~ Pimp My Novel –

~ Betsy Lerner’s Forest for the Trees –

~ Beyond The Margins (truth in advertising, I am one of the 12 writers on the one) –

~ Writer Unboxed –

~ STET –

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me)

~ Writer Unboxed –

~ Ask Allison –

~ A Moment of Jen –

~ Murderati –

~ A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing –

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing)

~ –

~ The Millions –

~ The Rumpus –

~ FU, Penguin – (my favorite)

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy)

~ Writer Unboxed (naturally!) –

~ A Writer Afoot –

~ ArtsJournal: Daily Arts News –

~ Flickr Most Interesting Photos –

~ ScienceDaily –

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Eve Brown-Waite has a new Book Trailer out for the paperback edition of First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How A Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and A Third World Adventure Changed My Life.

Eve says:

“People are loving it (the book), laughing and learning a bit about this great big world of ours. Plus, 10% of all my royalties go to CARE International to fight malaria in Africa.

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Announcement: The winner of Trish Ryan’s A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances is Elizabeth@LongToLove.

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

News From and About Our Authors

April 19, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, News

This rare Monday, without a book to present/review, is a perfect time to catch up on our authors and their recent (or upcoming) releases.

Congratulations to Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy)

Although this debut novel crossed over many genres, The Last Will of Moira Leahy has become a RITA finalist in RWA’s Best First Book category, 2010. While yours truly described it as an “adult fairy tale,” if Romance Writers wish to embrace “Moira” as romantic, so much the better. And, if you have yet to read this novel, please treat yourself now!

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me) was featured on April 7, 2010 in the USA TODAY’S New Voices: Sarah Pekkanen, ‘The Opposite of Me’ by Carol Manning.

And now Sarah is thrilled to announce she has a new, two-book deal with editor Greer Hendricks at Atria Books/Washington Square Press, an imprint of Simon&Schuster.

Her second book — with the current working title FROM THE HEART — is the story of 32-year-old Julia Dunhill, who wakes up one morning to discover her husband has changed into a completely different person because of an extraordinary experience. Julia, who also sees pieces of her life in the world’s great operas, has three weeks to decide if she should stay with her husband – or leave him. Publication dates are Spring 2011 for the second novel and Spring 2012 for the third.

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool) and her debut novel are everywhere, including these sightings:

The Swimming Pool in PEOPLE.

Entertainment Weekly: The Swimming Pool is “difficult to put down.”

“A stunning debut!” The Swimming Pool is This Week’s Hot Reads at The Daily Beast.

And The Swimming Pool is featured in Marie Claire and Elle Canada – on newsstands now!

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

Alicia’s new Facebook Fan Page is up and running. She hopes you’ll become a fan! Alicia also cordially invites you to sign up for her email newsletter here to receive news related to Simply From Scratch.

Amy MacKinnon (Tethered) offers the following glowing endorsement for Alicia’s debut novel: “Readers will fall for the characters of this New England town who try to rescue the worn-through heart of one of their own. Told with equal parts warmth, hope, and humor, SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH is destined to be passed among friends who’ve shared in each other’s grief, and honored it with love and compassion. It’s a triumph of the heart.”

Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life and The One That I Want coming June 1, 2010) is thrilled that The One That I Want has been chosen
by both Redbook and Cosmo as a summer read and will be in the July issues.

And then there are the literary reviews:

“[A]n aching, honest look into the death and rebirth of relationships….a wise, absorbing narrative.”-Publishers Weekly

“Scotch specializes in heroines at a crossroads, questioning their life choices and preparing to embark on journeys of self-discovery. . . . [She] creates eminently relatable characters, with a particularly excellent understanding of the way sisters interact, and has the ability to craft scenes of real emotional weight.” –Booklist

“Well-told, fast-paced, and packs a satisfying emotional punch.” –Library Journal

Before embarking on her book tour, Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith and Between Friends) posted this Comment on Facebook:

“Just got this from a reader who finished BETWEEN FRIENDS: ‘”I am not proud to say this, but I am not currently an organ donor. I plan to change that after reading this story.”‘ Uhh, does it GET better that that?!”

Ah, the power of words…

More of Our Authors’ Journeys

April 08, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

In the past weeks — and those yet to come — The Divining Wand’s posts have been filled with success. New/debut book releases are fulfilled dreams for authors and rewarding enjoyment for readers yet, remember, “getting published” doesn’t just happen.

The January 25, 2010 post, Our Authors’ Journeys, told how long it took before Kristy Kiernan, Lauren Baratz-Logsted, Kristina Riggle, and Emily Winslow were published? And how they handled rejection, what kept them going as they kept writing? Today’s post features four more authors with their personal tales. All are debut authors (though Trish Ryan’s memoir sequel will be published at the end of June) and please welcome the site’s most recent author, Robin Antalek, in the lead-off spot.

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Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I’ve been doing this forever—literally – all of my adult life and I am 48! I began to publish fiction here and there in my twenties in small journals. For money I wrote press releases, grants, radio scripts, a column on Healthy Kids for a food co-op – basically anything that wasn’t fiction! It wasn’t until I submitted a story on a lark to the Writer’s Institute at the State University of New York at Albany – where a guest author was running an invitation only fiction workshop— that I seriously considered fiction. When I got into the workshop, he changed my entire way of thinking and I went on to win a few contests. That I was a finalist in a few “good” contests gave me enough nerve to tackle a novel that promptly went in a drawer. As did the follow-up novel. Novel three I felt was good enough to go out and started to query agents. I did everything they tell you to do about queries – matched my novel with their lists – read the acknowledgement pages of novels I admired that were similar in vein to my own for leads and I perfected a one page query letter that neatly summarized my manuscript. I had a half dozen agents request full to partials all to no avail. So then I decided I would send to the few remaining houses that accepted slush pile manuscripts. Months (and I do mean months) later I get a phone call just as I am walking in the house from picking my daughters up at elementary school – it’s an editor who wants to buy my book but she thinks I need an agent to help with negotiations. She offers to send it to a friend of hers who has just left a prestigious agency to strike out on her own. Her friend, the agent, calls me the next afternoon to tell me she stayed up all night reading and loved it. It was like talking to an old friend. She offered me representation and as it goes in publishing, that book did NOT end up selling to the original house. Or any other. After extensive edits my agent and I mutually agreed to pull the manuscript out of circulation. She told me to go back, take my time, and write what I really felt. A year and a half later The Summer We Fell Apart was the result and it sold to Jeanette Perez at HarperCollins.

“Why did I keep going all those years? Because I had so many stories to tell. Because of all the “jobs” I’ve ever had in my life—it was the one job where I could forget who I was and where I was and the possibilities seemed endless. I’ve tried to quit in dark moments of self-doubt – but I was more miserable not writing. Oddly enough, the magic moment, for me anyway, was when I made peace with the fact that I might be writing stories only for myself – the rest – as they say—is history.”

Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

“I was writing for years before I was published. I began with stories and had a couple published, but then turned to novels; I am not good at working on multiple projects at a time, much less multiple genres. I also realized, as soon as I began writing a novel, that I needed the longer form.

“To be completely concrete: I began writing seriously when I was 22. Took several detours into publishing and grad school; had three kids; now I am 43. I kept going because I am very very stubborn, and I knew I would be worse off if I stopped trying.

“But I would like to note that I didn’t try to get published until I thought I had something publishable. The struggle wasn’t to get published. The struggle was to get good enough.”

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):

“I’m not sure exactly how long it all took, as I’m not sure where to begin counting. Confession: long before I wrote He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, I wrote a truly awful self-helpish book, and looked for representation. I wasn’t paying attention to the rules (non-fiction sells on proposal, not finished product) and thought that my book was so unique & wonderful that I didn’t have to. Silly girl. Not surprisingly, that book never got off the ground. I filed it away forever (and am thankful now it was never published!).

“A couple of years later, when I was pulling together my query for what became He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, I was much more careful to think about the agent/author relationship, and consider what might be a good fit, and how to approach agents in a professional way. It was almost exactly two years from my agent took me on and when my memoir hit shelves.

“Are there tips for handling rejection? It hurts. I think you get through it by finding that fine line between confidence in your writing and being open to recognize and recalibrate when you’ve made a mistake.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“The first version of my book, The Last Will of Moira Leahy, was rejected, so I completely rewrote it. Total elapsed time = 6 years. (This included time spent revising, polishing, trying to find an agent, pouting—that sort of thing.)

“I had to do a lot of soul-searching after the first round of rejections. I also had some positive rejections to keep me going, but mostly I believed at a deep level that the story needed to be told; that’s what kept me going.”

Announcement: The winner of Holly LeCraw’s debut novel, The Swimming Pool, is Sarah. Congratulations! Please send your mailing addresses to: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com, and I’ll have the book sent out promptly. Many thanks to everyone who entered.

Holly LeCraw and The Swimming Pool

April 05, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the book’s front cover:

“Holly LeCraw’s THE SWIMMING POOL is a complex,
astonishingly well-crafted, and completely compelling debut.”
– ANITA SHREVE, author of Testimony

When Holly LeCraw becomes a novelist tomorrow — April 6, 2010 — with her highly anticipated debut, The Swimming Pool, she will have accomplished a life-long dream.

Now most writers constantly dream that dream but, on her website’s On Writing page, Holly confesses her mixed feelings about whether she wanted to be a writer:

“I think I always did, although often I wouldn’t admit it to myself. It just seemed the height of hubris. I was one of those children who read constantly, constantly–hundreds and hundreds of books. Being a writer just seemed like the most magical, incredible thing in the world to me, and so it seemed delusional to aspire to actually be one. I struggled with that for years.

The author explains:

“What did I do all that time? The short answer is I dithered, and tried to do every legit sort of writing-type thing that wasn’t writing.”

What was her turning point?

“I have heard a number of writers, when asked for advice, say that you should only write if you can’t not write. That is what I spent a number of years proving to myself: I really have to do it, otherwise I’m miserable. As soon as I finally realized that, I buckled down. Whenever I wanted to give up, I just reminded myself that I’d tried that before, and it hadn’t worked.”

This author’s candid revelation of her personal journey might well be the basis for the complex and insightful, emotional storytelling. Although Holly claims that the plot of The Swimming Pool came as a complete surprise to her.

In fact, on the Author Q & A: WRITING THE SWIMMING POOL page, she describes how her backstory evolved:

‘I started off with a brother and sister, who became Jed and Callie. I knew the mother was dead, and I knew that Jed wanted to know who had killed her. At first I thought it was a short story. Then, one weekend, my wonderful husband took our kids down to the Cape to give me some peace, and after I had sat stunned in the silence for a while, I started playing around with those characters. I started asking questions–so, where’s the dad? Hmm, I think he’s dead too. But something is amiss. Not another murder, but a complication…maybe he had an affair. How does that matter? And then Marcella came to me, and the whole thing just opened up.

“That has happened to me before: a story seems fairly straightforward, and then some side character–in this case, the mistress of the father of the protagonist–comes along, and lets me look at it slant. The side character takes center stage, and suddenly the plot is much more layered.”

In other words, the storyline became complicated as the synopsis describes:

A heartbreaking affair, an unsolved murder, an explosive romance: welcome to summer on the Cape in this powerful debut.

Seven summers ago, Marcella Atkinson fell in love with Cecil McClatchey, a married father of two. But on the same night their romance abruptly ended, Cecil’s wife was found murdered—and their lives changed forever. The case was never solved, and Cecil died soon after, an uncharged suspect. 

Now divorced and estranged from her only daughter, Marcella lives alone, mired in grief and guilt. Meanwhile, Cecil’s grown son, Jed, returns to the Cape with his sister for the first time in years. One day he finds a woman’s bathing suit buried in a closet—a relic, unbeknownst to him, of his father’s affair—and, on a hunch, confronts Marcella. When they fall into an affair of their own, their passion temporarily masks the pain of the past, but also leads to crises and revelations they never could have imagined. 

In what is sure to be the debut of the season, The Swimming Pool delivers a sensuous narrative of such force and depth that you won’t be able to put it down.

Indeed this novel is intense from the start, just read the First Chapter.

Amid all its buzz my Advanced Reader Copy arrived from the publisher in mid-November, yet I waited until bone-chilling cold February to dive into The Swimming Pool and experience the summer sizzler.

In a tale of betrayal, loss, and too many secrets, the story actually begins at a family pool party on Cape Cod. Now please think about that. Why a backyard pool on Cape Cod that’s surrounded by an ocean? Yes it is rare (and oh so symbolic) but the pool was built to be unique and intimate.

Above all, Holly LeCraw’s writing is both elegant and powerful as this novel demands the reader’s unwavering attention. Adultery, murder, and another affair would likely pique interest. Yet it’s the reasons for those events — the characters’ motives — that elevates the book to a level of fascination. And every mistake or misdeed revolves around the human need to belong, to be a part of someone, to be needed.

This need, then, is a heartbreaking obsession that turns into passion? Some would say so, I do not. Because without truth can there be passion and love or simply more secrets? The Swimming Pool with its detailed setting — including the actual feel of heat, humidity, even the sea air — will allow every reader to decide this and more for themselves.

In her beautiful breathtaking debut, Holly LeCraw gives us a “sins of the father/mother” plot with a twist on life. The Swimming Pool — the author’s magical, incredible dream — will be available in bookstores and online retailers tomorrow…awaiting your reading dip into its pages!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Swimming Pool in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, April, 7, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return on Thursday to possibly claim your book.

Our Authors’ Best Writing Advice

April 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

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


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