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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….

* * * * *

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, V

April 21, 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 — including fiction and poetry — 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, for the final week of this question, the following authors replied:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“Stephen King’s On Writing to remind me why I do what I do, and anything by Maeve Binchy to remind me how to create loveably flawed characters and keep multiple plotlines going.”

~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):

“My favorite writing books include: Save the Cat by Blake Synder, On Writing by Stephen King and Elements of Story by John Truby.”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“WORDS THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE by Robert Greenman.”

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

“Sometimes, it helps to check back with BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott, to remind myself to trust my process and listen to my characters.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“I’ve recently become a fan of Donald Maass’ THE FIRE IN FICTION. I also like John Dufesne’s THE LIE THAT TELLS A TRUTH, and of course Anne Lamott’s BIRD BY BIRD. For sheer inspiration, I look to poetry.”

~Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life, Easily Amused coming September 21, 2010, and Celia and the Fairies for ages 7 – 11, and Favorite YA):

“I love Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey. I use it to brainstorm plot points when I write myself into a corner, I also periodically reread Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.”

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

“Lately I always have Claire Messud’s THE EMPEROR’S CHILDREN and Elizabeth Strout’s OLIVE KITTERIDGE near me. Within reaching distance, for sure. Any page of either of those books contains too many gems to count. Also Alice Munro. If I am writing away from home and don’t have access to my books sometimes I’ll just pull up any Alice Munro excerpt online and be so struck by the beauty and exactness of her descriptions that I am humbled and inspired to keep writing. ”

~Keetha DePriest Mosley [formerly Reed] (Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern, More Culinary Kudzu: Recollections & Recipes from Growing Up Southern:

“I keep a Childcraft dictionary on my desk. Santa brought it the Christmas I was seven years old. Sometimes I thumb through it, enjoying the feel of the slick pages. Any time I open that dictionary, I’m taken back to the way I felt when I was a child looking at it: words were so much fun.”

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

“My bible is Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. I go through it with each book, scribbling notes and plot points in the margins. It’s fun to go back, now that I’m working on my third book, and see how the process evolved for the first two! I also really like Writing the Breakout Novel by James Scott Bell, On Writing by Steven King, and Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott. I have stacks of books on writing but those are the ones I always come back to. As for what I read when I’m writing, I zip through thrillers! ”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Carson McCullers’ “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” is almost always on my desk. James Woods’ “How Fiction Works,” because James Woods’ is both THE MAN and a genius and a great drummer. David Gates’ “Preston Falls” because he doesn’t mince words or suffer gilded lilies.”

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

“I love to read and re-read THE GREAT GATSBY and BIRD BY BIRD, though my copy of the latter is currently loaned out. I may turn that loan into a gift and just buy myself a new one. I miss it.”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“For the book I’m currently working on, math text books and a volume of Nabokov short stories.”

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Announcement: The winner of The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton is Jane Cook. Congratulations!

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

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, V

March 17, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

No matter the age or stage in life, a best friend forever could be made at any time and the same appears to hold true for bonding with fictional characters. Whether it’s in a children’s book or a chapter in a YA or adult novel, there are those characters who — 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, in this final week, our authors replied:

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

“Eloise. No question.”

~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):

“There are so many great characters to choose from. How do I pick just one? I’ll go with Charlie from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory- he’s got a never ending supply of chocolate after all.”

~Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade [Kindle Edition]):

“I cannot think of any better BFF than the lovely Luciana Vetra! She is the star of The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato, and I have never been so captivated by any character! She is a part-time model and full-time prostitute in 15th-century Italy with the most hilarious look at life via her inner dialogue. She is irreverent, foul-mouthed and so earthy it is a sheer joy to see what she does next. I would love to share a cup of espresso with her at a little piazza in Florence…although I am sure she would give me three reasons, Ragione Uno, Due, Tre, why I should pay and then leave her alone!”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“Oletta Jones (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt) for her wisdom, and Tom Wingo (The Prince of Tides) for his wit and sarcasm.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“I think Elizabeth Bennett would be a hoot. She’s smart and funny and sarcastic–and also, deep down, a romantic.”

~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):

“From my recently released novel The Twin’s Daughter, I’d pick Kit. He’s the most purely heroic character I’ve ever written.”

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

“Elizabeth Bennett. Because she is awesome. And maybe I could steal Mr. Darcy from her.”

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

“Can I have all four of the Ya Yas from THE DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD? If forced to pick one I guess I’ll pick Vivi. I’d hate to be married to her, but she’d be a helluva friend. I’ve been a fan of that novel since long before my own publication.”

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Writing, Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, IV

February 03, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

True or False? 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 discover the truth, as well as 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 among the authors who replied are returning TDW favorite Therese Fowler and new member Cari Kamm:

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion, and Exposure coming May 3, 2011):

“Thankfully, I’ve never reached a point with my writing when “all else fails,” maybe because the strategies I adopted when I began are sure-fire ways to keep getting the words onto the page. Those strategies: create a word-count goal and stick to it; edit the previous day’s writing before moving forward into new scenes; make copious use of a writing journal–this is where I write, long-hand, all my questions, notes, and thoughts about the work-in-progress.”

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

“I just sit my ass down and write every morning, for better or worse. I guess that “is” my superstition? I don’t walk around the room three times and incant a prayer or read Rumi. I just write.”

~Cari Kamm (Fake Perfect Me):

“No secrets or superstitions, just tons of yellow post-it notes! I only use yellow post-its and a bright orange sharpie to create the outline, Acts, and characters of Fake Perfect Me. I’m currently “‘wallpapering'” my office now for my 2nd book. Not sure why these colors, but I find comfort in them. Also, complete silence. I can be in a cafe or at home listening to music when creating themes or characters, but to actually write I need complete silence. ”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“When I’m stuck, I let my characters start talking. They can almost always talk me out of being blocked. Usually by saying something I never expected or by starting an argument. Or, I jump ahead to a scene I’m dying to write and then go back and fill in the gap. Coffee and chocolate help too!”

~Karen McQuestion (A Scattered Life, Easily Amused coming September 21, 2010, and Celia and the Fairies for ages 7 – 11, and Favorite YA coming April 1, 2011):

“The library is my secret weapon. When all else fails, I go to my local library and settle into a comfortable chair with a spiral notebook and pen. Even if I’m really stuck, something always comes to me. It’s magic, my library.”

~Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“I wish I had a no-fail secret! The only ritual I use when I am feeling unmotivated is this lecture: Write! It’s your job. Does your doctor get to say she’s not feeling particularly medically creative on the day of your appointment? I wish I could say that this always works, but it does on most days. I try very hard to remember that it’s getting in the chair and putting my hands on the keyboard that’s the trick and that writing may be creative, but it’s still a job and I have to show up to succeed.”

To be continued….

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You are Colleen Turner and Carmela Francisco. Congratulations!

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

Our Authors Journey, IV

June 17, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

Beginning with a late January post, The Divining Wand has revealed how its successful authors have traveled their personal road to publication. And now the remaining five answer the questions of how they handled rejection and what kept them going to reach their destination?

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

“Years passed between the day I really got serious about writing, and the day I signed a publishing contract. There is no general time-line for when you “should” have something published. Everyone’s on her own path. It takes some writers decades to achieve publication.

“During the submissions process, I became very familiar with rejection. What kept me going? A husband who believes in me, and an inner refusal to quit. Too, I surrounded myself with positive people who made me feel as though I was bound to succeed. And I tried to avoid negative people whose comments, questions, or attitudes made me second-guess myself.”

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

“I’ve been very lucky. Very lucky. My first book was nonfiction and I sold it myself, getting a publisher only after a handful of rejections. My first novel was sold about 4 months after it went on submission. That is remarkably fast. However, it didn’t feel that way at the time, and the novel was rejected by about a dozen publishers. As those rejections were coming in, it felt awful. I started to lose hope. I am a Gemini so I feel uniquely qualified to be on submission. Half of me has complete faith that I will be successful and the other half completely believes I’m a big fat failure. What kept me going is the optimistic half of me. That and my agent’s belief in me, and my husband and my friends.”

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

“The answer to this question depends on when you want to start the clock ticking. I always wanted to write and my parents have one of my earliest “works” dating back to second grade. If we use that as the starting point then it took me a looooooong time. If we start from the time I finished Unpredictable, it took me about five months to find an agent and about six months with her between revisions and when I sold. Once I sold it was two years before the book came out. This is my way of pointing out that writing makes a lousy get rich quick plan.

“Rejection is a part of the publication process. When writers gather they show off their rejection scars like old war veterans. My approach to rejection was to feel sorry for myself for a maximum of 24 hours and then pull up my big girl panties and move forward. There is a saying that the difference between an unpublished writer and a published writer is perseverance. Rejection was just the world’s way of trying to figure out how serious I was about this publication plan.”

Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“From the day I wrote the first sentence of my first draft, to the day my book was available in stores was almost exactly 7 years. I learned to have a very thick skin to deal with the rejections (teaching high school and having kids had already helped me with that!), and I even learned to use the rejections as inspiration to keep going, to get it right. My friends and family also helped, encouraging me every step of the way. And I also knew that giving up simply wasn’t an option–this mattered, my story mattered, and I had to keep going.”

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

“How long did it take before you finally got published? And how did you handle rejection, what kept you going? My first novel got published very quickly, but then it took me twenty years until my next novel was published. I handled rejection by getting very involved in other endeavors– not simply seeing myself as a writer.”

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Have you heard?

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

The Mother of All Giveaways

On her Wednesday, June 16, 2010 blog post, Allison writes:

“Yes, I use those words intentionally. Because today, I wanted to give shout-outs to some women writers (okay, they’re not all mothers) who have in some way been kind or helpful to me throughout my career, and well, throughout certain times of my life. Writing is a very solitary endeavor, but thanks to some of my friends, I always feel like I have a wide network of support. All of these women are generous – with blurbs, with advice, with open ears when we just need to complain, and just as importantly, all of them have (relatively) new books out. 🙂 And I’m grateful for them, not just for their brilliant words that go onto the page, but for their friendship.

SO.

Here’s the deal:

To enter the contest, click over to my Facebook page, where this contest is announced. Click “like,” on the giveaway or leave a comment underneath the announcement. You’ll be entered. Just like that. I’ll leave it open until Friday at 3pm EST, when I’ll choose the winners, each of whom will receive one of the fabulous books listed below. Oh, and did I mention that each copy will be signed? Yes, the lovely ladies will be sending their autograph too.

Here are the goods that you’ll be up to win:” (Scroll down.)

* * * * *

Announcement: The winner of Three Wishes by Carey Goldberg, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand is Stacey.

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 fictionfactor.com, ‘”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: diviningwand@gmail.com

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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 Arounder.com. The virtual reality site — featuring gorgeous 360-degree panoramas of the world — is what I frequently used on Seize A Daisy’s “Friday Getaways.” It’s a first-class ticket for your travel plans or imaginary flights of fancy, please check it out.

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

Our Authors’ Go-To Writing Books, II

March 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Yes there are more of our favorite authors’ writing books for your consideration and, though duplications become more numerous, there are also thoughtful additions to this question:

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!

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

“Definitely Bird by Bird, also Story by Robert McFee and This Year You Write Your Novel by Walter Mosley”

Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“I love both of the books already mentioned, and I’ve also becoME a big fan of Donald Maass’ books: WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL and THE FIRE IN FICTION. And I also firmly believe my craft improves by reading lots and lots of fiction that’s already out there–both the classics and what’s new, which, of course, rocks because I can claim time spent reading is ‘”work!”‘

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

‘”The Stuff of Fiction”‘ by Doug Bauer is essential.
I also like James Woods ‘”How Fiction Works”‘
‘”Bringing Down the House”‘ by Charles Baxter”

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters):

“If I MUST choose, my favorites would be:

On Writing by Stephen King for the most down-to-earth advice presently like a memoir.

Forest for the Trees by Betsy Lerner because she’s an instant shrink for writers.

Modern Library Writer’s Workshop by Stephen Koch because it’s an MFA in a book.”

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

“I wish I could help but I’ve honestly never read a book on writing! Instead I read what I enjoy.”

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

“BIRD BY BIRD is classic and amazing, as much for its practical advice as its humor and commiseration (operative root word being “misery” of course). Whenever I have a bad day I think of KFKD (you have to read the book to get the reference) and I have re-read the Jealousy chapter more than once when I’m chewing on my own spleen about something.

“I’m a big fan of Sol Stein’s books ON WRITING and HOW TO GROW A NOVEL. Also, I read the classic SCREENPLAY by Syd Field in preparation for writing a film treatment of an earlier book. I don’t plan to walk down the screenwriting road but there were lots of plot tips in that book which helped me focus on my novels.

“Really though, the best education is to write more. Writing is a ‘”learn by doing”‘ affair.

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

“Speaking for myself – I have a zillion craft books. Whenever I’m stuck I seem to buy a new one. I think I buy them in the hope it will help me figure out my problem! My favorites include:

On Writing by Stephen King
Save the Cat by Snyder
Writing the Breakout Novel by Maass
The Writer’s Journey by Vogler”

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

“My top three: The Forest For The Trees by Betsy Lerner. On Writing by Stephen King. And yes, Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.”

To be continued…

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Announcement: The winner of Jenny Gardiner’s memoir, Winging It, is Cathy Carper and the winners of Ad Hudler’s novel, Househusband, are Dera and Katie Alender. Congratulations to all of you! Please send your mailing address to diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com and the books will be sent out promptly.

Judy Merrill Larsen’s Love Story

February 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

Have you ever fallen in love with a fictional character, someone who IF only existed…? On the other hand, when writers imagine their characters, do they ever create their “ideal?”

Our guest author for this week, Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers), has experienced both and shares how her romantic dream came true.

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Finding Love Among the Pages

In the summer of 1973 I fell in love. Hard. This was no schoolgirl crush, no scribbling his initials and mine on my fabric covered three-ring notebook. In a way that I didn’t fully understand, this was it, was real, was grown up.
I was 13.

That summer I read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD for the very first time, and along with all the other emotions the book elicited in me, on some level, I also realized that Atticus Finch was my dream man. And this was before I’d seen Gregory Peck playing him on screen (that pretty much sealed it for me, though, when I did).

Atticus was a good man. He strove to do right even when everyone around him told him it was wrong. He loved his children. He was smart and funny and believed that most people were good. He wanted to make the world better.
Now, my passion for Atticus didn’t keep me holed up in my room all through high school, pining for a man I could never have. No, I fell for crooked grins and dimples, sweet smiles and piercing blue eyes . . . most of it unrequited. And, I always had my worn hard cover copy of MOCKINGBIRD at the ready to dive into anytime I needed the comfort of what had come to feel like home.

Ten years later I got married (what was I thinking? I was only 23!), had babies and began playing adult. Dreams of writing and of Atticus collected dust while I nursed my boys, did the laundry, cooked the meals and created a home for my family. On rare (very rare when you have two active little boys!) occasions I’d get a few moments to myself and I’d grab a book to read, sometimes reaching for the comforts of Maycomb and Atticus Finch.

Twenty years later, I was a single mom to those same two sweet little boys, feeling a bit stunned and shell-shocked to be an ex-wife. Eventually, I would try dating again, hopeful that I might find Mr. Right, but doubting he really existed, at least for me. My mantra became “hope for the best but expect the worst.” Once, after another bad first date, I was bemoaning my situation to my best friend who looked at me and said, “You’re looking for Atticus Finch, aren’t you?”

I was, of course, but had never admitted it to anyone, even to myself. And it occurred to me that perhaps I’d set the bar a tad too high.
I had a full life and I knew I was lucky. But, as I wrote about my main character in ALL THE NUMBERS, “Fortunately for Ellen, her life was full of family and friends and work. But sometimes her bed seemed too big for just one person. And sometimes she wished for a welcome home hug and kiss from an adult.” This was true for me, too.

I found time to chase the dream of becoming a novelist, and I poured many of my hopes and dreams and frustrations into Ellen. And, through the magic of fiction, I created her (and my) in the character of Bob Hansen, a lawyer who helps her after the death of her son. He’s patient and kind and good-looking. He’s smart and funny. He’s Ellen’s Atticus.

And I wanted him, too. But, like Atticus, he existed only between the covers of a book, and in my case, a book that hadn’t yet been published.

Flash forward another eight years, to 2001. Almost thirty years after I’d met Atticus; two years after I’d created the character of Bob Hansen.

My own Atticus Finch/Bob Hansen walked into my life, my REAL life, a life that existed not in the pages of a book I loved or a manuscript I hoped would someday be published.

A funny, smart, kind man who adored his children and mine, was respected as a lawyer, and wore glasses just like Atticus and Bob. A man who made me laugh, kept me on my toes, and had those great crinkles around his eyes when he smiled.

When my book was published five years later. Our friends (by then, we’d been married for a year) teased us that he was Bob Hansen. The character in my book. They didn’t believe me when I explained I’d written him, described him in the pages a full year before we met. The dark hair, the eye crinkles, the intelligence and kindness. All of it was John . . . but I hadn’t met him yet. In my toast to him at our wedding, I said he was my Atticus, and my best friend, my matron of honor, the one who all those years ago had said that’s what I was looking for, smiled through her tears as did I and as did John.

Who knew I could write the man of my dreams in my book and less than a year later he’d be standing on my doorstep, taking me out for dinner?

So, when I say that writing my book and having it published was the fulfillment of a dream, it’s true on so many levels.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two signed copies of Judy Merrill Larsen’s debut novel, All the Numbers. Please leave a comment on this post before tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m. EST to be entered into the random drawing. The winners will be announced in Thursday’s post.

The Revealing of Judy Merrill Larsen

February 10, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

JudytmbWhen Judy Merrill Larsen, a former high school English teacher, wrote her debut novel, All the Numbers, she brilliantly told the heartbreaking story of losing a child. And, although it was purely fiction, the book resonated with so many who had lived through that tragic nightmare. In fact Judy was overwhelmed with “thank you” mail for giving voice and respect to their grief.

With her talent and literary skill grounded in the core values of middle America, it’s not surprising that this author simply says: “I live in St. Louis, MO with my husband, our five kids, a really sweet (but very dumb) golden retriever and a diabetic cat.”

Now let’s g;et to know Judy much better through what she reveals:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Really happy, very lucky, always grateful, needs coffee.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: It is what it is and it’s all good. (Or Go Packers!)

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Recognizing and appreciating how good I have it when I have it. Not to be all preachy or anything, but I sometimes have to catch myself to enjoy the moment without wishing for more. Most days, I choose to be happy.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Something really bad happening to one of my kids or my husband. That and being in a snake pit.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Somewhere warm (I’m pretty sick of winter these days). More specifically, I’d love to be in the South of France or in Tuscany, enjoying the view, the wine, and my husband.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: This is hard because mostly I look at people who have struggled/made a difference/survived and I’m in awe, thinking, how did they do that? Where’d they find the strength to do what they did? And I wonder how I’d hold up under such pressure. I like to think I’d stand up for right, that I’d be strong, but I haven’t been tested in the ways so many people throughout history have been, so it seems wrong to compare myself to anyone like that.
And just regular folks like me don’t really stand out in history.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Barack Obama.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: Okay okay okay. Just a minute. I’ll be right there. Is the wine open?

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I’d love to be able to understand how to write music. Or draw and paint. That would rock.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Raising my sons who’ve turned out to be really fun, kind, happy young men.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: Hmm. I’m impatient. And cluttered. I’m a bit of a hypchondriac. (I just asked my husband and he said, “Not having any flaws.” Ha!)

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Understanding the importance of family and friends and learning from experience.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Not having a third (or fourth? Eeek!) baby.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A:I’d love to be a roadie for a Bruce Springsteen tour–you know, the person who tosses him the guitar.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: According to my husband, I’m pretty much without pretense (which isn’t always a good thing).

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

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Quentin Compson from The Sound and the Fury. He’s just so wonderful to hate. And it all comes back to bite him in the end.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: Brett Favre. I’d thank him for all the fun and excitement of watching him over the years. And then I’d ask him to please apologize to my son for going to the Vikings.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A:Probably rudeness and intolerance– they both seem so pervasive these days.

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Reading or cooking or planning my next trip.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I think I’d love to be a chef or a singer in a band.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Honesty/integrity, a sense of humor, kindness

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Really good pizza or my mom’s chocolate chip cookies. Oh, or homemade chex-mix.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Fly Me to the Moon, Thunder Road, Sweet Baby James, Little Darlin’/Here Comes the Sun, Brown-Eyed Girl

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: To Kill a Mockingbird, Crossing to Safety, The Things They Carried, The Sound and the Fury, and Grapes of Wrath

Would you like to know even more? Become Judy’s friend on Facebook and welcome her next Wednesday when she guest blogs during a special week at The Divining Wand.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away both of Kristy Kiernan’s novels, Catching Genius and Matters of Faith, as a duo. Please leave a comment on this post to be entered into the random drawing. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST. with the winner announced here in tomorrow’s post.