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Jenny Gardiner and Slim to None

December 08, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


Novelist/memoirist Jenny Gardiner’s (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me) most recent book Slim to None [Kindle Edition] was epublished in April 2010, but the delicious news is that it’s now also in Paperback, available for everyone to enjoy.

Although the cupcake on the book’s cover easily identifies the story as “food themed,” Jenny’s novel is as unique as are all the others in that category. How unique? Well the tale comes from the writer’s lifelong love of food and her constant struggle of balancing on the dieting treadmill. Knowing she was not alone in the quest to keep trying to fit into a size 6 pair of Gloria Vanderbilt jeans, Jenny decided to tackle the ups and downs of this way of life from a professional foodie’s point of view. She confessed….with relish:

“I loved the idea of taking someone who has to eat for a living then not be able to eat in order to continue to be able to eat for a living. Such a quandary! And then of course I wanted to pile her up with all sorts of issues that she has to overcome.”

The result became a novel combining realistic problems, thoughtful insights, and a share of humorous trial-and-error resolutions along the way. Here is a brief synopsis of Slim to None:

Abbie Jennings is Manhattan’s top food critic until her expanding waistline makes staying incognito at restaurants impossible. Her cover blown on Page Six of the New York Post, her editor has no choice but to bench her-and suggest she use the time off to bench-press her way back to anonymity. Abbie’s life has been built around her career, and therefore around celebrating food. Forced to drop the pounds if she wants her primo gig back, Abbie must peel back the layers of her past and confront the fears that have led to her current life.

The praise from the author’s peers has been outstanding:

“With a strong yet delightfully vulnerable voice, food critic Abbie Jennings embarks on a soulful journey where her love for banana cream pie and disdain for ill-fitting Spanx clash in hilarious and heartbreaking ways. As her body balloons and her personal life crumbles, Abbie must face the pain and secret fears she’s held inside for far too long. I cheered for her the entire way.” –Beth Hoffman, bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

“Satisfying as a Thanksgiving dinner at Mom’s. … Jenny Gardiner’s heroine gives us a sarcastic but provocative look at our love-hate relationship with food. You’ll eat this up in one sitting.” –Ad Hudler, bestselling author of Househusband and Man of the House

“A fun, sassy read! A cross between Erma Bombeck and Candace Bushnell, reading Jenny Gardiner is like sinking your teeth into a big frosted chocolate cupcake…you just want more.” 
—Meg Cabot, author of Big Boned and Queen of Babble Gets Hitched

Now (scroll down) to read Chapter 1 of Slim to None along with the added bonus of Jenny’s recipe for Banana Cream Pie. In fact there are approximately 17 recipes included in the book — everything from Chicken Soup to Pasta Salad.

Ah food, Abbie believes that almost everything in her life has revolved around it to cause her problems as well as to offer comfort. Yet, while she knows this isn’t healthy –either emotionally or physically –, the character remains reluctant to change her eating habits or even work out regularly at the gym. Her life is complicated and change would be good if it wasn’t that frightening.

Of course even one small change can cause a ripple effect and, as life as she’s known it begins to drop away, Abbie feels the weight of loneliness. How human and more realistic can a storyline be? For, at one time or another, we’ve likely experienced being an outsider, craving to belong.

This is where Jenny Gardiner shines by spotlighting the truth that no one can have it all, although it appears to be a natural condition to keep trying for that greener pasture. As she explains:

“What I loved exploring with Slim to None was much in the same vein as Sleeping with Ward Cleaver–how many people have that “‘perfect'” marriage, the “‘perfect'” life? Not many, because you’re dealing with human beings who are innately flawed and instinctually conflict is going to arise at some point—how can it not? So I enjoy sort of putting it out there, saying things that a lot of people might feel but never speak, because it helps people to realize that a) they’re not alone, and b) they’re not abnormal–they’re all part of quirky human nature, warts and all.”

On occasion, Slim to None [Kindle Edition]/Slim to None [Paperback] is as light as a souffle and can turn within a page to be a hearty, three course meal. What will likely satisfy and fill a reader up, however, is the author’s ability to evoke real feelings. So treat yourself to Slim to None, it’s food for thought yet calorie-free!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Jenny Gardiner’s Slim to None in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. Also, winners will have the choice of either the Kindle Edition or the Paperback. However the contest is just for today. 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.

AND

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Alice Eve Cohen’s What I Thought I Knew: A Memoir 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, 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.

Guest Jenny Gardiner on e-publishing

December 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me) has recently turned to e-publishing with Slim to None. In today’s guest post the author explains why e-publishing, and why now?]

Shortly after I received my Kindle e-reader for my birthday last December, I was reading in bed at midnight, not loving the book I had downloaded, but wanting to continue to read something. So with the magic of my electronic reader, in two minutes’ time, I found another book on Amazon, downloaded the thing, and had begun reading it. How cool is that?

Dramatic changes have been underway in the publishing industry in recent years—changes that–combined with a faltering economy–have left traditional publishing in a bit of a tailspin. While the cumbersome infrastructure of the publishing industry is perhaps not quite nimble enough to as easily embrace and adapt to these changes, authors are on their own figuring out how they can achieve their end goal–to reach readers hungry for their work.

I’ve been fortunate to be teamed up with a literary agent—the wonderful Holly Root—whose agency (The Waxman Agency) is an innovator and has undertaken a bold new program of offering up high-quality books to the reading public via a digital imprint called Diversion Books. I wrestled for a while with whether to “throw my hat into the digital revolution,” as it were, but finally decided that the publishing climate is becoming prohibitive enough that I feel as if writers need to explore all paths to publication and—forgive yet another cliché–I ought to put my money where my mouth was.

Particularly because nowadays most authors already have to do most of their own marketing and publicity, it wasn’t such a stretch for me to publicize a digital book versus a tangible one. Since commercial women’s fiction is a particularly hard sell in the industry right now, it just felt like now was the time to try something different. My biggest worry was that my readers would be able to have access to it since not everyone has an e-reader. But because this book would be available through all e-readers and for POD (publish on demand) through Ingram’s, one of the biggest book distributors, I figured most everyone would have access to it. And because Kindle currently has 80% of the e-book market, Diversion negotiated a brief exclusive in exchange for promotional considerations. With Amazon the book was also available for other e-readers via the Kindle app, so my biggest worry—accessibility–seems pretty much covered.

I jumped at the chance to be part of this program because in many ways I am a convert to e-reading and I believe that society is on the cusp of a major shift in how people read books. I’ve always felt badly that there is a tremendous amount of paper waste with books—that books that don’t sell get sent back to the publishers and ultimately destroyed. And as one who has on many occasions found at least three books lurking in the bowels of her purse (which gets heavy!), I love having all of my reading neatly compiled into one small, lightweight and very portable device. And strangely I find I can focus more readily when reading in a public place with an e-reader. Go figure.

I think that as competition increases with the introduction of new e-readers, and prices come down in the near future, soon electronic readers like the Kindle, the Nook, the Sony Reader and the iPad (of which millions have sold since it’s release earlier this year) will become as commonplace as cell phones (with smart phones already an e-reading option for many).

Are e-books the perfect solution? Not at all. I hate the idea that e-books contribute to marginalizing wonderful independent book stores, and hope that somehow some of the talk—of e-book downloads being available at stores, perhaps, will help to mitigate that. And I hate to sit back and watch layoffs and consolidation in the publishing industry, as really good people, fabulous editors, publicists and artists are squeezed out as the business changes. The music industry experienced these same sea changes and frankly nothing about it is easy. But as the mainstream industry goes more and more toward sure-bet books to the exclusion of the vast mid-list, which is really like the middle class of the writing world, more authors will by necessity seek alternatives to continue to pursue their passion and to reach their readers.

I decided to publish digitally with Diversion Books rather than cold turkey on my own because, alas, I am such a Luddite. Well, not fully. But I am technologically stunted and I don’t have the time in my life right now to devote to figuring out how to do this on my own, and I am happy to be able to work with such wonderful professionals to collaborate on an end-result we can all be proud of. It’s early enough that I can’t tell you how the outcome will be, but so far so good and I really just hope I can get the word out to enough e-readers about the book—I do find that those who are early adapters with e-readers are enthusiastic to buy books, which is a good thing for everyone in a market in which so few books are being purchased. And I hope that my readers will be able to access this book.

Of course tangible paper books aren’t going to go away, but the convenience of downloading books and carrying literally hundreds of them in such compact form is awfully hard to beat. And I’m thrilled to be at the forefront of such exciting innovations and to be able to offer up a book that I absolutely love and think that you will too.

Many of you may know me as a novelist who was able to successfully market my way into a publishing contract with my first novel, SLEEPING WITH WARD CLEAVER, which was the winner of Dorchester Publishing’s American Title III contest a few years ago. Back then I sort of stumbled into the frontier of capitalizing on what would soon become the most comprehensive way to market and publicize books—via networking on the internet.

Since that time, the industry has shifted in none-too-subtle ways as the internet has become an integral part of the publishing picture. So much so that e-publishing, which used to be considered an unconventional means of publication, is clearly being viewed now as the wave of the future. The future is already upon us, and I hope that you will join me in this brave new “frontier” by checking out my debut e-novel, SLIM TO NONE, in which Abby Jennings, Manhattan’s premier food critic, is outed on Page Six of the New York Post, and to her chagrin she realizes she’s too recognizably large to now remain incognito in her job. Her editor gives her six months to shape up or ship out, and so this ultimate foodie–a woman who is paid to eat for a living–must vastly curtail her eating in order to continue being able to make a living.

This holiday season promises a huge surge in e-book readers as gifts, so I look forward to a rapidly-growing audience eager to embrace e-books. And if you’re one of the lucky ones to get an e-reader for Christmas/Hanukkah/etc, please remember Slim to None!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Ann Wertz Garvin’s On Maggie’s Watch in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Ann Wertz Garvin and On Maggie’s Watch. 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.

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.

MARCH

Presenting Debutante Sarah Pekkanen and The Opposite of Me

Jenny Gardiner and Winging It

APRIL

Kristy Kiernan and Between Friends

Holly LeCraw and The Swimming Pool

Matthew Quick and SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR

MAY

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

JUNE

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.

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

April 22, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

A recent question posted on The Divining Wand’s Q & A page sounded simple enough and an overwhelming number of authors responded to answer:

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?

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“Great question (I can’t wait to see all the answers). My latest manuscript Swimming Lessons is 75,656. But some of mine go up 10 109,000. the shortest was 65,000 or so.”

Emily Winslow (The Whole World coming May 25, 2010):

“THE WHOLE WORLD was about 80k when I submitted it, and about 90k after editing. (I know for most writers, editing involves taking away. I write sparely, and am more likely to add scenes in editing.) I’m very conscious of word count as I write. I generally break it down to a certain number of words for each chapter, and sometimes even scene. I don’t force conforming to that goal, but it helps me keep a sense of proportion as I craft the whole.”

Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me):

“I’d say for commercial fiction around 90K words is good. Used to be they wanted lots of words but with publication costs, etc, over the past few years it’s been downsized–in fact something w/ 100K words or more would definitely give an editor/agent pause.

“I’m not sure about YA fiction but I’m thinking 45 – 60K (I’m sure YA authors can tell you more precisely).”

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

“My biggest advice for word count is to write your book and then when it is done figure out where you are in terms of word count. My two YA novels (What Would Emma Do? and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood) have been around 65k words. My adult title, Unpredictable was just under 80k words and the middle grade I am writing now will come in at about 27k words.

“The only thought I give to word count when I’m writing is measuring my progress. I have set weekly word count goals based on a rough idea of the estimated length of the book, otherwise I ignore word count until I’m done.”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“Word count “requirements” (I use the term loosely because there are always exceptions) vary by genre. I write mainstream/women’s fiction, aiming, as I write, for about 100k-115k words–which, if I’ve done my job, means I’ll have produced a layered, complex story with subplots in place. My first drafts tend to be pretty complete, but not every writer works that way. Some like to put down a fast “sketch” and then go back in to fill things out. I’m not saying that my first drafts don’t need a fair amount of revision, just that the word count doesn’t change dramatically from one draft to the next.”

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

“I’m very word-count oriented, thanks to my magazine/newspaper background. Whenever I get a freelance assignment, my first question is, How many words?

“As I wrote Simply From Scratch, I stayed conscious of my goal of 80,000 words, give or take 5,000. My agent later told me 80,000 words is the perfect length for upmarket women’s fiction.

“A previous, unpublished fantasy novel I wrote was less than 60,000 words, and several agents told me that was far too short for the adult fantasy genre. Each genre seems to have what is generally considered an ideal length. But then again, there are notable exceptions. The Harry Potter books are often singled out as exceptions, because they’re longer than average children’s books.

“I’m curious to know whether other novelists keep word count in mind as they write, or if it’s more of an editing goal.”

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

“My word count for Orange Mint and Honey was something like 76,000 and for Children of the Water 81,000. I absolutely think about word count as I’m writing. It’s definitely helpful. One way it’s helpful is if parts of the book that should carry a lot of weight are much briefer than other parts. Or if you have more than one POV character that should have equal weight in the story, are their word counts about the same? ”

Robert Gregory Browne (Kill Her Again, etc. and Down Among the Dead Men coming May 25, 2010):

“My typical word count is about 100,000 to 125,000 words. And yes, I do think about word count because I’m contractually obligated to turn in a book at that length. Word count differs, however, depending on the editor and how he or she actually counts the words. Some still use the old method of 250 words a page, while others rely on computer count, which seems to be the trend these days. I consider this less accurate because it doesn’t take into consideration the space on each page, the way old method does.”

Meg Waite Clayton (The Wednesday Sisters):

“The Wednesday Sisters is about 93,000 words. And yes, it’s something I keep an eye on. When I was writing the first draft of my new one, The Four Ms. Bradwells (Ballantine, March 2011), I celebrated the halfway point at 40,000 words. At 80,000 I began to panic as the end was nowhere in site. At 120,000… And the complete first draft was 140,000 – yikes! My contract with Random House contemplates a novel of approximately 100,000 words. The final version – just put into production last week – is a bit longer than that, but closer far closer to it than to 140,000. I like to think I shoot for 80,000 words, although obviously I miss the mark on a regular basis.”

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

“I never think about word count. Nor have I had a single editor bring it up. The Truth About Delilah Blue likely runs about 90,000 words or about 450 book pages– the longest of my books so far.”

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

“I write YA, and my first book was about 68,000, which seems to put me just on the longer side. My next book will be a few thousand words more. Some authors don’t think about wordcount at all, but I use it to gauge my progress and make sure I’m getting enough work done–typically on a first draft, I shoot for 2,000 words a day (and come out at about 1200-1600 most days).”

Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“Word count is one of those things that is in the back of my mind — but not something I’m aware of until the manuscript is finished and my computer gives me the number. The Summer We Fell Apart comes in at 115,103 words give or take and that final word count was based upon when I thought the novel was done — not some magic number I thought I needed to reach. When I was writing more short stories and submitting them — I was more aware of not exceeding a certain number since some journal requirements are fairly specific — and I have a tendency to cram a novel’s worth of information into a short story. Writing novels gave me the luxury of writing long and I suppose, given my word count on Summer, you could say I embraced it.”

To be continued…

Jenny Gardiner and Winging It

March 15, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

WINGINGITbn

When Jenny Gardiner debuted with her novel, Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, she wrote a funny yet heartfelt story of being married and staying in love for the long haul. Now tomorrow — March 16, 2010 — with the release of her second book,Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me, the author proves how committed she is to long hauls in any relationship.

In last week’s guest post, How Jenny Gardiner Copes with Parrot-hood, it was explained that Graycie had been a Christmas gift that would keep on giving…entertaining moments in exchange for a great deal of patient care:

“Graycie, a too-smart-for-our-own-good African Gray parrot, came to our family from the wild, a Christmas gift from a relative living in Zaire 20 years ago. Graycie arrived on our doorstep–with a temporary stop in parrot prison (quarantine)–in good health but bad temperament. The first few years were arduous, as she was ferocious, snapping and growling at us when we got near. Who could blame her? Poor thing was chopped down from a tree and separated from her parents, stuffed into a crate with a hundred other terrified baby birds, and left to survive with little food or water.

“Had I anything to say in the matter, I would have nixed owning a contraband bird from the get-go (back then most parrots ended up in the U.S. this way; shortly thereafter such means of parrot acquisition were banned). Nevertheless, I was determined to make the best of the situation, despite the fact that she arrived on the heels of the birth of our first child. I was having enough trouble dealing with the demands of a small human who needed my attention all day and night, so was ill-prepared to welcome a bird into the home who expected that and then some.”

As one might imagine, after almost twenty years of living with a wild gray parrot, there are stories to tell. Some tales have become legendary and shared with family and friends, while still others have been written about in Jenny’s local newspaper column. And, since this “pet” has become the focus of everyone’s interest, the writer thought it would be fun to do a book about Graycie.

In fact Jenny even admits to a “funny” backstory of where and why she began the writing:

“YEARS ago, I was sitting in a bat mitzvah, and becoming really antsy as a captive audience to a language I couldn’t remotely understand. So while sitting there for 3-1/2 arduous hours (it was a high holiday so they had an extra long service with it), I pulled out a notebook and pen and HANDWROTE four chapters of what would eventually become this book…”

And that book, Winging It, is described in this synopsis:

A hilarious and poignant cautionary tale about two very different types of creatures, thrown together by fate, who learn to make the best of a challenging situation — feather by feather.

Like many new bird owners, Jenny and Scott Gardiner hoped for a smart, talkative, friendly companion. Instead, as they took on the unexpected task of raising a curmudgeonly wild African gray parrot and a newborn, they learned an important lesson: parrothood is way harder than parenthood.

A gift from Scott’s brother who was living in Zaire, Graycie arrived scrawny, pissed-off, and missing a lot of her feathers — definitely not the Polly-wants-a-cracker type the Gardiners anticipated. Every day became a constant game of chicken with a bird that would do anything to ruffle their feathers. The old adage about not biting the hand that feeds you — literally — never applied to Graycie.

But Jenny and Scott learned to adapt as the family grew to three children, a menagerie of dogs and cats, and, of course, Graycie. In this laugh-out-loud funny and touching memoir, Jenny vividly shares the many hazards of parrot ownership, from the endless avian latrine duty and the joyful day the bird learned to mimic the sound of the smoke detector, to the multiple ways a beak can pierce human flesh. Graycie is a court jester, a karaoke partner, an unusual audio record of their family history, and, at times, a nemesis. But most of all, she has taught the family volumes about tolerance, going with the flow, and realizing that you can no sooner make your child fit into a mold than you can turn a wild parrot into a docile house pet. Winging It is an utterly engrossing reminder of the importance of patience, loyalty, and humor when it comes to dealing with even the most unpleasant members of the family.

*****

Now read an excerpt, Chapter 1.

Then watch and listen to the author discuss her memoir:

And how about some words from Graycie herself. WARNING: For those with dogs, cats, or small children around, it would be wise to turn down your volume before watching the video, Cats Away, Graycie Will Sneeze.

Sounds a bit like a jungle in the Gardiner household, doesn’t it? And there may be moments while reading the book when you shake your head, thinking “How in the world do they stand this?” However no pet (or human) is perfect even if domesticated and Graycie is not, BUT she is part of a family.

Winging It introduces the reader to that family as Jenny’s writing opens the door to her home. It’s warm, loving, and chaotic thanks to children, dogs, a cat, and Graycie. Still, within a few chapters, it turns into a natural way of life — one filled with respect, understanding, patience and good humor.

Jenny will be the first to tell you that her book is a cautionary tale. Library Journal agrees, stating: “Gardiner’s memoir proves that the hope of having a model pet (or child) is usually not realistic. It will speak to animal lovers and offer fair warning to anyone considering the 40-year-plus commitment of owning a parrot.” And, given that Easter is fast approaching, please think twice about those “cute” chicks, ducks, and bunnies as gifts.

Gift Graycie was fortunate that her recipients had huge hearts as well as a sense of adventure. For living with this wild parrot has been (and will likely continue to be) one adventure after another. And that translates into TRUTH: Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me is heartwarming, eye-opening, and refreshingly informative. Allow this book to fly into your hands without concern for Graycie’s sharp beak and claws. Jenny has her “vengeful” bird under control!

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Jenny Gardiner’s memoir, Winging it, in a random drawing of all comments left on this post. The deadline is Wednesday, March 17th at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post.

Our Authors’ Go-To Writing Books, I

March 11, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

When the following thoughtful question was posted on The Divining Wand’s Q & A page — rather than select a few authors to answer this query –, it was sent out to everyone.

I wondered, what do your authors read in the way of writing books? Do they have favorites they refer to again and again? Do they read the classics like, Bird by Bird, or Writing Down the Bones, or do they favor books on craft like, Save the Cat?

Reading (and writing) minds want to know!

As might be expected there were duplicates mentioned, however the authors’ overall choices are impressive for any writer’s library:

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“I am sure you will get a slew of the best book titles, but my true fav is the Scene Book by Sandra Scofield — wonderful for fiction and narrative writers of all kinds.”

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me):

“I have my writing bibles up on my website under the “Writers I Love Link” and I also did a piece for NPR’s “All Things considered” on the 3 books that helped me learn to write a book – it’s on the main page of my website.”

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

“My favorites over the Years: Forest from the Trees, Betsy Lerner; On Writing, Stephen King; The Mythic Journey, Christopher Vogler; The Art of Dramatic Writing, Lajos Egri.”

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

“I might be in the minority here, but I never read books about writing. Instead, I learn by critically reading other writers’ novels and essays and memoirs. If I like something I say, “‘Now … what makes this work so well?” And if I don’t like it I say, “Now … why didn’t this work? What’s wrong with it?'” But writing books per se? Nah.”

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

“I’ve never been that big on books about writing, although I’ve read a few – Bird by Bird comes to mind. However, I like craft books. Ones that tell me what to do, like how to plot a mystery or write comedy or edit the first five pages. My favourite one, and the only one I really turn to over and over, is Donald Maas’ workbook that accompanies his book WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. While I don’t have dreams of being the next Dan Brown, this book and workbook has taught me so much about the craft of writing. And I use some of his exercises when I teach writing too. It’s a must-have for every writer’s library, if you ask me. No matter what your genre or aspirations.”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion)

“My personal go-to books are the following:

By John Gardner: On Becoming a Novelist and The Art of Fiction
Stephen King’s On Writing
Janet Burroway’s Writing Fiction (the best instructional book I’ve found)
Robert Olen Butler & Janet Burroway’s From Where You Dream

Each fills a different need. Gardner’s books are a bit dated, but his clear-eyed assessments and advice have always spoken to me.”

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

“Stephen King has a wonderful book, On Writing. But for me — the best way to learn about writing is to read (over and over again) the books that I love. I try to absorb what these writers have done with characters, dialogue, plot, voice, etc. Then I write and write and write.”

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

“Loved Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing. I think Save the Cat is a fabulous book that anyone who is putting pen to paper to tell a story should
read. Blake Snyder was a wonderful, smart, and generous person who shared so much great
information for anyone and everyone. I was so sad that we lost him so young. And really bummed because he was to blurb my book and I know it would have been a lovely one.”

To be continued…

Announcement: The winners of Sarah Pekkanen’s debut novel, The Opposite of Me, are Janel and Kristen. Congratulations! Please send your mailing address to diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll get the books to you as soon as possible. Thank you for playing everyone.

How Jenny Gardiner Copes with Parrot-hood

March 09, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Next week Tuesday, March 16, 2010, Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver) will watch her second book, Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me land on bookstore shelves. It’s the tale of parrot-hood and, in this guest blog, the author introduces us to her feathered charge.]

My parrot wants me dead. She hates me. Proof is the triangular chunk of flesh now missing from both the front and back of my thumb, testament to the dangers of a beak that’s as powerful as an industrial metal-stamping die.

It seems where I’ve met with moderate success in parenthood–i.e. maintaining the upper hand in the relationship–I’ve failed miserably in parrot-hood.

Parrot-hood, you ask? Yes, in my case, that would be the state in which one must sustain a parrot.

Graycie, a too-smart-for-our-own-good African Gray parrot, came to our family from the wild, a Christmas gift from a relative living in Zaire 20 years ago. Graycie arrived on our doorstep–with a temporary stop in parrot prison (quarantine)–in good health but bad temperament. The first few years were arduous, as she was ferocious, snapping and growling at us when we got near. Who could blame her? Poor thing was chopped down from a tree and separated from her parents, stuffed into a crate with a hundred other terrified baby birds, and left to survive with little food or water.

Had I anything to say in the matter, I would have nixed owning a contraband bird from the get-go (back then most parrots ended up in the U.S. this way; shortly thereafter such means of parrot acquisition were banned). Nevertheless, I was determined to make the best of the situation, despite the fact that she arrived on the heels of the birth of our first child. I was having enough trouble dealing with the demands of a small human who needed my attention all day and night, so was ill-prepared to welcome a bird into the home who expected that and then some.

To some extent, Graycie’s redeemed herself over the years. She’s become quite the talker: she puts my kids in time-outs when they get sassy, yells at the dog when she tries to eat her, and answers the phone in my husband’s voice. Ditto his burps and sneezes. Recently when I used a broom to nudge her back onto the cage from the floor, she pecked at my feet and the broom while repeatedly saying, “Hello gray chicken!”

For a while Graycie became somewhat nice. She let us hold her, sometimes even stroke her feathers. Unfortunately she’d scoot up my arm and perch behind my neck, precariously close to that vital jugular vein and far too inclined to poop on my back, so I didn’t make a habit of such visits. Maybe that angered her.

My friend is convinced Graycie needs a boyfriend. She is a teenager, after all. I’m convinced she needs anger management therapy. Perhaps, though, she is really a he and is tired of being called a girl (back when we got her, the only way to determine a bird’s gender was surgically, so we just guessed at it).

Whatever it is, I know this: what she wants most is to wound me. Often. When I clear the paper from beneath the cage, she races down to attack me, and gleefully rips my hair out. When I reach to open the perch on top, she’s there before I complete the job, straining as far as her body can reach in order to take a chomp my way. When she sneaks off the cage on her frequent surreptitious walkabouts, she attacks my ankles and feet as I try to catch her and return her to home base. I’m the first to admit I can’t quite control her.

When I glance at her, she just gazes back with a cold, black stare that says, “You know I could snap your finger in half easier than you could break a Lorna Doone in two, beyatch.” And she means it. The old adage about not biting the hand that feeds you must’ve slipped right on past her.

So much for the parental guilt ploys, the “all that I’ve done for you over the years” nonsense. And in her case, all I’ve done over the years for her is plenty. For example: hydro-therapy and beak-fed antibiotics, three times daily for weeks on end, repeated every couple of months for years, due to the bird’s propensity to fall off the perch and bust open her breast bone (hence the name Graycie). Death-defying claw-and-flight feather-trimmings (don’t ask). And, of course, the bi-weekly cage washings.

I try to remind myself that I’m helping a fellow creature in need. But I know that to her, it doesn’t really matter. Because it seems that the only thing that would make Graycie happy is if she finally succeeded in maiming or dismembering me, leaving me to die in a bloodied puddle on the living room floor.

I used to have a sexy Brazilian neighbor named Carolina who made Charo-like catcalls at Graycie while shaking her booty before the bird. Graycie was smitten and allowed Carolina to not just pet, but actually fondle her. She’d scoop her up in her hands, giving kissie-kisses, lip-to-beak, making smoochy noises that churned my stomach. Like some green-eyed parent whose child prefers the babsyitter, I was wistful that Graycie chose Carolina over me, despite all I did for her. If I tried to put my lip to the bird, you’d soon recognize me as the one with no lips.

Now I wonder if Carolina had it right all along: she was simply a hot-blooded female (albeit the wrong species) coming on to a possibly male parrot and appealing to his/her more prurient interests. Maybe Graycie is a boy after all, and simply hates me for reinforcing misinformation…In which case, anyone know a sexy 20-something parrot looking for love in all the wrong places? If so, you know where to find me. Most likely in the ER, getting stitched up, or in the pharmacy, stocking up on Band-aids and antibacterial ointment. And maybe a little arsenic.

*****

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand will be giving away two copies of The Opposite of Me in a random drawing. Simply leave a comment on this post — by the deadline of Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST — and you’ll be entered in the contest. The winners will be announced in Thursday’s post.

Our Authors’ Spring/Summer Book Releases

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holly LeCraw debuts with The Swimming Pool.TSWMPs

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

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

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

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

May 25, 2010:

Emily Winslow debuts with The Whole World.TWHWORLDsm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Revealing of Jenny Gardiner

March 02, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

JennyGTwo years ago Jenny Gardiner debuted with the wickedly funny Sleeping with Ward Cleaver a “romantic” novel for those married awhile and, on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, she returns with her second book, Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Parrot Determined to Kill Me. Described as, “A hilarious and poignant cautionary tale about two very different types of creatures, thrown together by fate, who learn to make the best of a challenging situation — feather by feather,” Winging It will be presented/reviewed by The Divining Wand on Monday, March 15, 2010. However, as is tradition, let’s get to know this author from her official bio:

“Jenny Gardiner is the author of the novel Sleeping with Ward Cleaver. Her writing has appeared in Ladies Home Journal, the Washington Post, and NPR’s Day to Day, and she has a column of humorous slice-of-life essays that runs in the Charlottesville, VA Daily Progress. Jenny lives in central Virginia with her husband, three kids, two dogs, one cat, and, of course, a gregarious parrot.”

And now here is Jenny revealed:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: How’s this: Three kids, two dogs, cat, parrot and husband

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: I actually do have a motto. I make my kids crazy with it. I am always telling them “It’ll all come out in the wash.” Not to be confused with my maxim, which is “Peace, love, togetherness. Yadda yadda yadda.”

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Everyone’s getting along, no bills to be paid.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Believe it or not, my greatest fear growing up was tsunamis. Yes, a child of middle American, not a shoreline within a ten-hour drive. Now, I don’t know. That’s hard to pinpoint. But probably external forces so out of my control so
something I try to not think about. If I watched the news, I’d be scared of my own shadow, so I do avoid the news.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Without doubt, I would be stretched out on catamaran soaking in the sun with family and friends in the British Virgin Islands. Close second would be anywhere in Italy. Close third would be on safari in Africa.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Sheesh. In all of history. That’s tough question. I’ll have to get back to you on that because I’m
drawing a blank!

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Hmm…off the top of my head, I really admire Michelle Obama. I think she is a role model that young girls should aspire to–intelligence, elegance, dignity, and great grace.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: “Like,” “Uh,” “Um,” “It’ funny, but.” All of which I am guilty of overusing to death!

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I would love to be artist. To be able to see something and render it on paper would be so very cool. I would also love to be fluent in several languages.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My children.

Q:What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I seem to be incapable of sticking to a diet for more than twelve minutes. I’m also guilty of impatience, and disorganization.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: I think I’m very friendly.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t like to dwell on what-if’s. I can’t really think of anything I regret.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: It might be interesting to be an elephant for a day. Oh, wait, maybe a panda bear! Or a polar bear. As long as I went into it with a full belly and didn’t have to eat baby seals or mass volumes of bamboo leaves or baobob leaves LOL

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I often crack jokes about anything and everything. Sometimes to a fault.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Holden Caulfield

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: I never like the villains. I have a strong sense of right and wrong so I don’t care for the bad guys.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Sheesh. Maybe Tiger Woods and just smack him upside the head and ask him “What the hell were you thinking, you idiot???”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Seriously? I hate pee on toilet seats. Is that crass? (yes, another of my flaws, I tend to be honest even if it involves being crass!).

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A:I love spending time with my family. Or if you really forced me, I’d suck it up and enjoy a massage, daily…

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I’m doing it. Now if only it was financially rewarding enough to allow me to continue doing it without having to seek another job, which is on the horizon with our second child going into college…

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Honesty, kindness, consideration.

Q: If you could eat only
one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: OMG, hands down it would be my mom’s banana cream pie. And maybe then I would finally, finally, finally be sick of it.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Ack, such pressure! I have so many thousands of songs on my iPod…Let me think what I always love to hear…

Everything by Michael Buble; Extraordinary by Mandy Moore; Daughters by John Mayer; Don’t Let Him Steal Your Heart Away by Phil Collins; Meeting Across the River by Bruce Springsteen

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: In God We Trust All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd; Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger. Those two always stay in the top two. The other three are always in flux, depending on what I’m reading and what’s stuck with me. Lately I’ve really enjoyed reading Ad Hudler— his novel House Husband is so very well-written and so very insightful, I just enjoyed that read. Books that make me laugh: Jonathan Tropper’s Everything Changes and Bob Flaherty’s Puff.

There are far, far too many books to list them all and I feel terrible I’m not putting all of my friend’s books on the list!

Yes, Jenny is funny, sassy, and very friendly. Enjoy more of her company by becoming a follower on Twitter and/or a friend on Facebook.

Words from and about Our Authors

January 19, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: News

There’s news that you need to know, can use, and look forward to, regarding the following Authors:

Alert! If you haven’t heard yet, Carleen Brice (Orange Mint and Honey, Children of the Waters) has announced, “The universe heard your cries of not wanting to miss the Super Bowl. ‘”Sins of the Mother”‘ will now air on Sunday, February 21st.”

Remember that’s on the LIFETIME MOVIE NETWORK!

*****

January Magazine, December 31, 2009, listed Best Books of Fiction: 2009 and among the chosen was The Last Will of Moira Leahy by Therese Walsh. Here’s the review:

“One of the really delicious things about Therese Walsh’s debut novel is that it pushes through to new ground. And even while you are swept away in Walsh’s carefully crafted and constructed story of magic and acceptance and loss, you are aware that you’ve never traveled this way before. I hadn’t realized how rare that feeling could be in fiction until I read The Last Will of Moira Leahy. Are there conventions in fiction? A path you must take in order for people to say: this is this sort of book, shelve it over here. If so, Walsh has forged ahead with no regard for these whatsoever. The result is an intelligent, thoughtful, moving — and again — magical, book. Moira was the less bold of a set of twins. Less daring, less spirited, less of the world. When she died in their 16th year, Moira’s twin, Maeve, must come to terms both with the part she played in her sister’s death and with her own path through the world, alone. In adulthood, now a professor of languages, Maeve comes across an antique dagger that reminds her of her childhood. The dagger will open a new chapter in Maeve’s life and lead her to a place of acceptance and understanding. None of that brief description does justice to Walsh’s wonderful creation. It is difficult — impossible — to capture that magic in these few words. Nor is it possible to compare it to anything else: Walsh has found her way here alone. The Last Will of Moira Leahy is a wonderful book. Well crafted, beautifully told. A star is born.” — Linda L. Richards

[As many know I believe in this book…for good reasons.]

*****

Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver) offers a funny video, Graycie Goes Hollywood (the upgraded version), starring the bird of her upcoming memoir —Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me coming March 16, 2010). Be sure to take a look.

*****

Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming in August 2010) has earned coveted praise from Marisa de los Santos (bestselling author of Love Walked In and Belong to Me: “This story of a young widow edging warily back into the world is full of vivid characters and grace. Imbued with hope but blessedly lacking in sentimentality, it is a fresh, stirring take on the devastation of grief and the holiness of friendship.”

*****

And Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been) was featured in the Sunday, January 17, 2010 article, Glen Ellyn writer rescues Alice from Wonderland by Julia Keller.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away a copy of The Murderer’s Daughters to anyone who leaves a comment on this post and is selected in a random drawing. The deadline is Wednesday, January 20, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EST. with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post.