The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Summer’s TBR Lists, III

June 16, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

With so many terrific books vying for attention, summer is the best season for a reason to relax and get lost in a new release or old favorite. And, since summer book lists are currently being published, The Divining Wand decided to ask its authors:

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

This week the following writers replied:

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

“PYM by Mat Johnson
SILVER SPARROW by Tayari Jones
THE WEIRD SISTERS by Eleanor Brown
THE FOUR MS. BRADWELLS by Meg Waite Clayton
THE RINGER by Jenny Shank
THE FULL MATILDA by David Haynes

And if I could recommend a book I’ve already read that’s coming out this month: IF SONS THEN HEIRS by Lorene Cary. LOVED it!”

~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, Wishes for Beginners ages 9 – 11 coming June 14, 2011, and Gnome Invasion ages 9 – 11 coming August 16, 2011):

“My to- be read list is always long. A few I’m looking forward to include, Sister by Rosamund Lupton, Bumped by Megan McCafferty, Skipping a Beat by Sarah Pekkanen and The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

Populazzi by Elise Allen. I had a chance to read an advance copy of this and LOVED it!”

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

‘“A Visit From the Good Squad,” the new translation of “Madame Bovary” by Lydia Davis, “To the End of the Land” by David Grossman, “Skippy Dies” by Paul Murray

“The Pull of Gravity,” by Gae Polisner. (It’s a YA book.)”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Oh, my goodness. There are too too many. EXPOSURE by Therese Fowler. THE FOUR MRS. BRADWELLS by Meg Waite Clayton. MRS. TOM THUMB by Melanie Benjamin. Not to mention the tottering TBR pile I already have next to my bed. And, anything about Italy I can get my hands on in preparation for my first visit there in September.”

~Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You, Girls in Trouble, Coming Back to Me, the rest in Bibliography):

“I’m urging everyone to read Dawn Tripp’s Game of Secrets”.

~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):

“Silver Girl by Elin Hilderbrand. Ever since I discovered her Nantucket-based novels last year they’ve defined summer for me.”

~Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“So many books, but here are a few on my must-read list. Many aren’t out until the summer.
In a Treacherous Court by Michelle Diener

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead by Paul Elwork

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Happy reading!”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winners of Populazzi by Elise Allen are Dee and Sarrah. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be Pre-ordered to be sent on its release of August 1, 2011.

Favorite Fictional Worlds, II

May 12, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Once again thanks to Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) who responded earlier this year with an alternative answer for her fictional BFF. Since Eleanor’s “twist” was simply too good (and intriguing) to pass up, TDW asked its other authors her question:

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

This week the following writers replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I would love to inhabit the very distinct world of the Manning clan and all the generations and their many offspring in Arkansas and Mississippi that Ellen Gilchrist has created over the span of eleven short story collections, seven novels and four books of poetry. Her writing gave me the courage to become a better writer. The world she has created in her prolific career is more magical and mysterious to me than anything I have ever read, and I return to her work when I am stuck in my own, and when I want to escape.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011):

“I’m looking out the window at a spring snowstorm right now, so every fictional setting I’m imagining is set in a warm, tropical locale. Actually, this was the best part of writing my debut novel, MAKING WAVES. The book is set mostly in the Caribbean, either on a ship or an island. Having the opportunity to imagine myself in these sunny spots kept me feeling warm and tingly the whole time I wrote it. OK, setting might not have been the only thing making me warm and tingly.”

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

“I’d love to live in the 1920’s world of Anna Godbersen’s BRING YOUNG THINGS. Gold Coast mansions! Bootleggers! Speakeasies! Flapper clothing!”

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“I’m afraid I’ve come up short with this question, I must read too many depressing books.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Well, the first one that come to mind would have to be Maycomb, Alabama. I’d play with Scout and Jem, we’d try to sneak a Boo sighting, and on hot days we’d relax with lemonade and Miss Maudie’s Lane cake while waiting for Atticus to come home. But there would also be such sadness. And lessons to be learned. All that growing up to do. But, it’s a place I’ve returned to often through the years. I’d also like to wander in the 100 Acre Wood with Christopher Robin and Pooh. Both of these places are so vivid in my memory . . . it’s like I really lived there. Which, I suppose I did.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I don’t have a need to stay too long, but I think I’d enjoy a year at Hogwarts. I’d like to learn some spells and receive my mail by way of Owl Post.”

~Meg Mitchell Moore (The Arrivals coming May 25, 2011):

“I’d enjoy spending some time in the post-war London that Clarissa Dalloway inhabits in Mrs. Dalloway. Alternatively (or in different moods) I’d like to check out the Colorado plains of Plainsong and any of the small Canadian towns from an Alice Munro story.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“As a child, I wanted to live in Narnia. As an adult, I still wouldn’t mind slipping between the pages of any one of my favorite childhood books–especially The Secret Garden, A Wrinkle In Time or any one of The Chronicles of Narnia.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Ok, so I’m a dork. It’s not entirely fictional, or perhaps, not fictional at all, but I would love to live in Henry James’s New York City. Man, those mansions, need I say more. I used to walk past many of the building he describes, which are now hidden behind the heinous commercialism that is Manhattan. I’d much prefer to see them back when.”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined, and The Things We Didn’t Say coming June 28, 2011):

“Oh, I want to live in West Egg, next door to Gatsby’s mansion, on the other side from Nick Carraway. The decadence! The glamour!”

~Leah Stewart (Husband and Wife, The Myth of You and Me, Body of a Girl):

“I used to think I’d like to live in the older novels I read, so I could wear fancy gowns all the time, but I’ve since come to realize that both gowns and the way of life that went with them were awfully restricting. Now I think I’d enjoy a visit to Harry Potter’s world, with its wands and magical candies and flying around on brooms, but not until after all the killing’s over.”

~Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“Well, my answer to this question is a no-brainer for me–but maybe it’s because I had a light lunch today. I would love to land in the world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’d pack a straw and hang out near the chocolate river, for sure.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Laura Dave’s The First Husband is Mary Quackenbush. Congratulations!

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

Go-to Writing Books, II

March 31, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

Before, during and after a work-in-progress, a published/debut author has likely read more than a few books on the art and craft of writing. Whether it’s for motivation or inspiration, favorites must exist to be read and reread whenever the need arises. With this thought in mind, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

What books do you keep nearby or go back to as you’re working?

And this week the following authors replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“While I admire so many great writers whose books grace the shelves in my office, I cannot read or refer to fiction while I am deep into my own fictional world. As a matter of fact I have an occupational short attention span for reading anything while I am writing. Instead I would say I use visual stimulus. I find the works of the photographer Sally Mann, Tina Barney, Diane Arbus, the paintings of Alice Neel, Lucien Freud and John Currin, among many, many others to be so inspiring. For me, looking at these works is actually a different kind of “fiction” there are so many stories hidden in the pictures.”

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“The Forest for the Trees” by Betsy Lerner
“Coaching the Artist Within” by Eric Maisel
“Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Browne & King (no relation)
“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

“I re-read Jane Austen at least once a year. The Harry Potter series too. If I need something gently, I might re-read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books or the Anne of Green Gables books. I wouldn’t say I go back to them necessarily, they are just constantly in my life.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“For general writing advice and inspiration, I love Stephen King’s “On Writing”. To see how smart humor can be done right, I go to Lorrie Moore’s short stories (“Like Life” is a favorite). But the one book I return to again and again–both when I’m writing and when I’m not–is Barbara Kingsolver’s “Prodigal Summer”. For me, it’s the whole package: great dialogue, amazing description and, most importantly, a wonderful story with the perfect blend of tragedy and triumph.”

~Melissa Senate (The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography):

“I constantly reread four on the craft of writing: Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott; On Writing by Stephen King; Making A Literary Life by Carolyn See; Escaping Into The Open by Elizabeth Berg. I love craft books. Not so much for the exercises or how-to, but for the comfort, the yes, this is hard.”

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

“Since I’ve been busy doing teaching and manuscript consulting, I’m tending to have a lot of craft-of-writing books on my desk, which are always helpful to consult, whether it’s for my students, clients or myself. Some of my recent favorites are: “Hooked” by Les Edgerton, “The Modern Library’s Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction” by Stephen Koch, “The Making of a Story” by Alice LaPlante and the classic “bird by bird” by Anne Lamott.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: Happy Debut Day to Lori Roy and Bent Road!


With a major thank you to Rebecca Rasmussen’s publisher, Crown, there are now two copies of The Bird Sisters for the Giveaway. The winners are Jennifer Gravely and Hira H. (Enamored Soul). Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and one book will be sent out promptly, while the other book will be Pre-ordered for its release on Tuesday, April 12th.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, II

February 24, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

As every book is opened, a new adventure begins. And sometimes, somewhere among the pages, there is also found those special characters that create an immediate personal bond — the ones, if only real, would be chosen as our BFF.

With this in mind The Divining Wand wondered who the authors felt close to, and asked:

What fictional character would you choose to be your BFF and why?

And this week’s authors replied:

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

“Nancy Drew. She always had the best adventures (and the best car). We could go zooming off and solve mysteries together, and hopefully some of her talent for picking up a skill fast would rub off. I would love to go scuba diving or surfing or skate in a roller derby, but only if I could learn to be an expert in just a few days.”

[On April 2, 2011, Meredith will be speaking at the Nancy Drew Convention while the sleuths are visiting Charlottesville.]

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“Harry “’Rabbit’” Angstrom, because there’s the chance that hanging with him would make me, in comparison, look good.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“You know, I think I still want to be friends with Pippi Longstocking.”

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter coming April 12, 2011):

“Oh, I’m a Lizzie Bennet girl from way back. All of Jane Austen’s heroines are wonderful, but she’s my favorite, and just the kind of BFF we all need — smart but not superior (usually), insightful about human behavior, independent but loyal, and funny as all get-out.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“It’s so tempting to take the easy way out with this one and say Marissa, the main character in The Art of Forgetting–if only because I deliberately wrote a character that I like and relate to. But I’m going to go with Rachel from Emily Giffin’s Something Borrowed. Yes, she slept with her best friend’s fiancé–but the friend deserved it! Seriously, though, of all the contemporary fiction I’ve read recently, Rachel stands out as a character who’s flawed in a way that makes you root for her, rather than against her. She’s practical and down-to-earth, too, which are great traits for a best friend.”

~Lori Roy (Bent Road coming March 31, 2011):

“I would choose Scout from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Scout embodied a longing to do the right thing, a passion for it. She was an intelligent, hard-headed tomboy who loved and protected her family and friends.”

To be continued….

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

Announcement: The winners of Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris are Elise and Keetha. Congratulations!

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

Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, II

January 20, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

For every writer there are intangible elements — personal habits — that allow the mind to roam and find its comfort zone when the words aren’t flowing. To take a look at what some of these practices include, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

Do you have any unusual writing rituals, secrets or superstitions that always work when all else fails?

And this week the following authors replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart:

“I write everyday whether I feel like it or not. If something isn’t working I play a game of what if and turn the story around so the characters react in a manner opposite than what I expected. Even if I don’t end up using it, the different approach helps me get words on the page. The thing about rituals or superstitions is that they don’t get words on the page. I know this sounds simplistic – but to be a writer you must write.”

~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 coming April 19, 2011):

“I don’t have any rituals, but if anyone has any that work I’d be happy to give them a whirl. I find what works is that I don’t let myself give up. Keep showing up, keep trying different approaches, but the most important this is to keep trying. As the famous saying goes- you can’t fix a blank page. If I get something down then there’s always a place to start.

“If all else fails a tea and cookie break don’t hurt. I’m not sure they help, but a cookie is never a bad thing.”

~James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“I do almost all of my writing via computer, but when I hit a wall, I pull out my writer’s ‘journal’ (a plain, college-ruled, wire-bound notebook) and write by hand. Something about writing on paper with a pen helps me break through. I’ll start by giving myself a little update about where I’ve been with the story, where it is now, and where I want to go with it. I then try to figure out what’s stopping me from getting from here to there. I’ll try different solutions in the notebook, writing out a scene or two in longhand, before returning to the keyboard.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“When I get stuck, I like to go do something active that lets my mind wander, like taking the dogs for a hike or gardening. I don’t like to sit at the computer and stare at the page when things aren’t working.”

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter coming April 12, 2011):

“Reading it aloud. If I’m not sure if something’s working, if I’m looking for errors, if I want to know if chapters start or end in the right place, or if I don’t know what to write next, I read what I’ve written out loud. Maybe just a few sentences, maybe a whole chapter, but hearing the words is totally different than seeing them on the printed page. I don’t know if it’s that unusual, but it’s one of my favorite tricks.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home coming February 22, 2011):

“You mean, besides dancing around a nightly bonfire covered in warpaint and snake oil? Ha. Probably nothing all that unusual, but I do like to write while being comfy. To me, that means fuzzy socks (the uglier, the better), a zip-up hoodie (I have three to choose from), and a warm woolen blanket to drape over my legs. Summer temperatures obviously create challenges in this regard.”

~Melissa Senate (The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, The Mosts YA, The Secret of Joy, the rest in Bibliography):

“I carry a little talisman for every book. Right now, it’s a tiny marcasite silver starfish charm on a delicate bracelet to represent the book I’m working on (set in a harbor town)–and to wish me luck on its fate in proposal form.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Eleanor Brown’s The Weird Sisters is Jonita. Congratulations!

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

Thank you to all who entered….if only The Divining Wand was magical enough to offer 24 more books.

James King and Bill Warrington’s Last Chance

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

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

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

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

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

And the storyline evolved into the novel and this synopsis:

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

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

And the critics agree:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guest James King on
How to Talk to a Debut Novelist

November 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[After a journey to publication that took over 30 years, James King finally saw his first novel, Bill Warrington’s Last Chance, on bookstore shelves in late August. It’s a proud, personal success and, in today’s guest post, he explains what a debut novelist appreciates most from family, friends, and (potential) readers.]

How to Talk to a Debut Novelist

First-time novelists tend to be a sensitive sort. Getting published is often a lifetime dream come true, realized after years of solitary work and spirit-sapping rejection. This is why, once the book has finally been accepted, published, and released, any event even remotely related to the recently published (if yet unrecognized) work of art tends to bring out some of our more subtle personality quirks. A good review, for example, will send us on a fist-pumping, chest-thumping, air-kiss-throwing dance around the house as we begin composing the Nobel acceptance speech in our heads. On the other hand, anything less than five stars may send us into a self-doubting, self-loathing funk from which we may never emerge without the help of supportive family, friends, and several gallons of Ben & Jerry’s Triple Chocolate Brownie Fudge Supreme.

God help you if you live with one of these volatile souls. But even talking with one can be a tricky proposition. In the spirit of greater understanding and personal safety, please allow me to offer the following tips on surviving a conversation with a debut novelist:

DO fawn. You know that commercial for an anti-flatulent where a young, bespeckled woman touches the wrist of the product spokeswoman and says, adoringly, “I love your work”? Go for that. And don’t stop when the first-time novelist pretends to humbly brush off your admiration. That dismissive wave is actually a signal for more. Word helper: insightful, delightful, compelling, unique, brilliant.

DON’T ask about Oprah. It’s not enough to finally get a book published? You have to remind the writer of the incredible odds against reaching Ultimate Oz? Sheesh. Besides, most writers hate to self-promote—it’s too close to begging. (Note to Ms. Winfrey: Please oh please oh please?! I promise not to jump up and down on your couch.)

DO ask about the writing life. This gives us the opportunity to don our proverbial smoking jackets, adjust our spectacles thoughtfully, and wax poetic on the creative impulse, the writing imperative, the muses, and other non-commercial topics only writers truly understand.

DON’T ask about sales. This is likely to be perceived as a thinly veiled attempt to find out how much money, if any, we’re making from the book. So don’t be surprised if the answer to this question is a question right back about your own financial situation: salary, earnings, investable assets, etc. (On second thought, probably not: You may actually be able to actually answer those questions, whereas most writers can’t.)

DO say you can’t wait to read the book if you haven’t yet done so. We know that you have a job, family, and other responsibilities. We’ll nod understandingly and express our hope that you enjoy the book.

DON’T say you haven’t had time to read the book. We’ll squint at you and wonder about your ability to get your priorities in order. No time to enrich your mind via deathless prose? Phooey.

DO express admiration over anyone’s ability to write a book. This demonstrates your understanding of the pain and suffering, not to mention draining self-absorption, it takes to get a novel published.

DON’T say you’re thinking of writing a book someday. To a writer, this is like saying to a doctor, “You know, I’ve been thinking of taking up brain surgery one of these days…” You may get a smile, but the explicative-deleted text in the thought-bubble over the writer’s head would make Richard Nixon blush.

So there you have it: quick and easy tips for survivng that next conversation with the world’s most fragile ego. But if you get stuck, just remember one of my favorite New Yorker magazine cartoons. It shows a frazzled writer handing a thick, just-finished manuscript to his apparently nervous wife. “Here it is, my novel,” he says. “I look forward to your compliments.”

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of Richard Doetsch’s The Thieves of Darkness in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Richard Doetsch and The Thieves of Darkness. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of James King

November 10, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

James King has been dreaming of publishing a novel for more than 30 years and, in late August, that dream came true with the debut of Bill Warrington’s Last Chance.

Here’s the book’s one sentence description:

With a new diagnosis that threatens his mind and most cherished memories, Bill Warrington is determined to patch up his differences with his three children before it’s too late.

And Praise for Bill Warrington’s Last Chance:

“Bill Warrington’s Last Chance is full of fascinating things to talk about — like the coming of age of a young girl juxtaposed with an old man’s search for redemption, not to mention the touching but unsentimental way they grow to care for each other… Perhaps one of the best things you can say about a novel is that the story lingers after you finish it. I have gone on thinking about this one without trying.”__Sue Monk Kidd, Author, NY Times Bestseller, The Secret Life of Bees

“This is what reading is about and what a good book is supposed to do.” Sue Grafton, author of the Kinsey Millhone mystery series

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

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

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Bill Warrington’s Last Chance for Monday, November 22, 2010 but, for now, let’s meet the author through his “official” bio:

James King lives in Connecticut with his wife and their two children. “Bill Warrington’s Last Chance” is his first novel.

Alas, since so few words will fit on the back flap of the dust jacket, it’s time to get to know Jim King — upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: It took 30+ years, but finally got published.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Life is a feast; most of us are starving ourselves. (From my father and passed on to my kids… ad naseum, they’d say.)

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Unattainable and almost always lost in the effort.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: That Hell is a shopping mall.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: San Francisco. My favorite city and the setting of my next novel.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: James Michener, who didn’t get published until he was 40. (A kid, really.)

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Nelson Mandela.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “It’s not easy being me.” (To which my wife replies, “It’s not easy being with you.”)

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I started piano lessons as an adult. Wish I had more of a talent for it. Especially ragtime. And jazz. And classical.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Convincing my wife I was worth the risk.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: It’s a toss-up between stubbornness and impatience.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I’ve put the question out to family and friends. Still waiting…

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not learning a foreign language.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Paul McCartney. The cute Beatle.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: My increasingly prominent forehead, thanks to my fast-receding hairline.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Atticus Finch.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Fagin.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Alex Rodriguez. I’d ask him how it feels to be the highest-paid player in baseball. Then, I’d ask him to adopt me.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: When lousy, ill-mannered creeps walk through the door you’re holding open for them without so much as a nod, much less a verbal thank-you. But really, it’s a minor peeve. Doesn’t bother me too much. The rude, no-class jerks.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Thinking about writing. I’m much better at this than the actual writing.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: This is it. Always has been.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Integrity, empathy, humor.

Q :If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: The smoothies from one of the kiosks on the lower level of Grand Central Station. I wouldn’t last long, but the Tutti-Fruity is excellent.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Not necessarily in this order:
1. Hey Jude, The Beatles
2. Ants Marching, Dave Matthews Band
3. Rosalita, Bruce Springsteen
4. Sympathy for the Devil, Rolling Stones
5. Baby Beluga, Raffi

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: To sound properly literate, I should include Tolstoy or Dickens or Flaubert, but my favorites are all American. “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee and “The Catcher in the Rye” by JD Salinger had the most impact on me as a young reader and remain books I enjoy re-reading today. “Light in August” by William Faulkner, mainly because I love the name of the main character, Joe Christmas. “In Cold Blood,” by Truman Capote is one of the most absorbing and chilling books I’ve ever read. “The Grapes of Wrath” by John Steinbeck—I couldn’t move for awhile when I finished it.

Thoughtful, clever, and determined, James King is definitely a new author to follow on Twitter and become his Facebook book fan.

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

Best Writing Exercises, Part, III

October 28, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles

In continuing to discover what inspires or motivates our favorite authors/friends to perfect their natural skills, The Divining Wand offers more responses to the question: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

Please also take note that this post welcomes and introduces two new authors, James King and Kristina McMorris!

Stacey Ballis (Good Enough to Eat, The Spinster Sisters, Room for Improvement, the rest in Bibliography):

“The two that seem to work best for me are:
Flip through a book and point at one sentence and write it at the top of a page, and then flip through a different book and point at a sentence and write it at the bottom of the page and then have to fill in the space between…connecting the dots.

I do the same sort of thing with a phone book, choosing two names at random and then creating a dialogue between them, forcing myself to give them both lives and realities and imagine what circumstance is putting them in each other’s sphere.”

James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

“In planning a chapter or a scene, I’ll sometimes write a dialog between the main character and me, the writer. I’ll ask questions like:
– What are you trying to do in these next 15-20 pages?
– What obstacle could get thrown in your way that you don’t think I can write your way out of?
– What new and interesting thing am I going to learn about you… or one of the other major characters?
This exercise helps me get to know my characters better and keeps me focused on moving the story forward in a (hopefully) compelling way.”

Kate Ledger (Remedies)

“My favorite writing exercise–and I use it when I teach students and I recommend it to everyone who writes–is to imagine the contents of the purse or pockets of the characters on the page. You learn so much about them from what they’re carrying around. While I was writing REMEDIES, I imagined that Emily, who’s 47, still carried tampons in her purse but couldn’t wait to be done with that phase of life. Once I’d imagined that detail, I felt like I knew everything about her: what kind of relationship she had with her husband and with her child, how she felt about growing older, how she felt about her life experiences. It turned out that the purse itself got written into the novel. Even though I eventually cut the tampons, they were the portal to everything else I needed to know.”

Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home coming February 22, 2011):

“I can’t say I use any writing exercises, per se, but I do make a habit of chipping away at my manuscripts Monday through Friday, from kid drop-off time to the pick-up hour. Treating it as a normal job, even on days when a root canal sounds more appealing than penning a chapter from scratch, is the way I ensure slow but steady progress toward the next finish line. If I waited for the muse to show up, I might still be on chapter two — of my first book!’

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, and Skipping a Beat coming February 22, 2011):

“I think for me the best exercise is practice. Writing and more importantly, re-writing is the best possible way to strengthen those creative muscles. I’m not big on formal writing exercises, but for my third book, I worked hard to plot it out in advance. For The Opposite of Me, I did some very broad plotting. I did more with my second book, Skipping a Beat, and found it was really helpful. So I’ve got out the index cards and am really thinking through book #3!”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winners of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman are Kristan and Kate Ledger. Congratulations!

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