The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Summer’s TBR Lists, IV and
Alison Pace’s A Pug’s Tale

June 22, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Book Presentations, Books, Q&A

It’s officially summer — time for relaxing and getting lost in those TBR books. While other summer book lists were being compiled and published, The Divining Wand decided to offer its own lists by asking our authors:

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

This week the following writers replied:

~Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA, and Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed):

“Unfortunately, a lot of what was on my spring ‘”must read”‘ list has made it through the spring unread (d’oh) and therefore will be joining me this summer. I’m looking forward to Myra McEntire’s “Hourglass,” which came out in May, and Carrie Ryan’s “The Dark and Hollow Places” which was released in March. Also Megan McCafferty’s “Bumped”, released at the end of April. Plus, of course, all the great books I bought recently but haven’t gotten to yet–“Cryer’s Cross,” by Lisa McMann, “Will Grayson, Will Grayson” by John Green and David Levithan, “Please Ignore Vera Dietz” by A.S. King, and “Recovery Road” by Blake Nelson.”

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“I’m not a big re-reader, but summer means re-reading to me, so I’ll be diving into some of my old favorites: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, The Stand by Stephen King, Evening Class by Maeve Binchy, and The Lords of Discipline by Pat Conroy. I always find comfort and inspiration in those books!”

~Laura Dave (The First Husband The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America):

“I’m about to delve into an advanced copy of J. Courtney Sullivan’s new novel, Maine. And have been wanting to read Laura Munson’s, This Is Not The Story You Think It Is.”

~Jael McHenry (The Kitchen Daughter):

“Oh, so many books! For starters, Sarah Jio’s The Violets of March, Camille Noe Pagan’s The Art of Forgetting, and Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Arrivals. And there’s a new book out in Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series, so I definitely want to pick that up. I have a tradition of buying those for my mom’s birthday, and sneakily reading them before I give them to her.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting):

“My TBR pile includes Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From The Goon Squad and Sarah Henry’s Learning To Swim. I’m also eagerly awaiting some of this spring and summer’s new releases–Jael McHenry’s The Kitchen Daughter, Rebecca Rasmussen’s The Bird Sisters and Claire Cook’s latest, Best Staged Plans. (I could go on and on!)”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“Right now I get to read the new Sophie Hannah psychological suspense novel in draft form, which won’t be coming out to the general public for another year. Lucky me!”

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And now a BONUS book for your summer reading pleasure!

Essayist/novelist Alison Pace has followed her highly successful novel, Pug Hill, with the June 7th release of A Pug’s Tale.

This critical Praise describes another wonderful, dog lover’s adventure:

“A charming mystery-lite with abundant personality.”Publishers Weekly

“Pace is the alpha writer of feel-good, girl-in-the-city-with-dog novels….a winningly affectionate tribute to art, love, New York City, and pugs.” Booklist

Here is the synopsis:

There are pugs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

Hope McNeill has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for years, but this is the first time she’s been able to bring along her pug, Max. (Officially at least. Previously she’s had to smuggle him in inside her tote bag.)

The occasion: a special “Pug Night” party in honor of a deep-pocketed donor. Max and his friends are having a ball stalking the hors d’oeuvres and getting rambunctious, and making Hope wonder if this is also the last time she gets to bring Max to the museum.

But when a prized painting goes missing, the Met needs Hope’s–and Max’s–help. In her quest for the culprit, Hope searches for answers with an enigmatic detective, a larger-than-life society heiress, a lady with a shih tzu in a stroller, and her arguably intuitive canine. With luck, she’ll find some inspiration on her trips to Pug Hill before the investigation starts going downhill…

Now read an Excerpt: Chapter One.

And a vlog of Alison talking about A Pug’s Tale:

(If the video isn’t visible on your monitor, please view it here.

To contact Alison online, follow her on Twitter and friend her on Facebook.

Despite this abbreviated book presentation, please know that A Pug’s Tale is smart, wry, and delightfully fun. Best of all, though, it’s a story on intrigue and unconditional friendship….a perfect addition for your summer TBR list!

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Book Giveaway: To celebrate summer The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of A Pug’s Tale by Alison Pace in a random drawing of comments left only on this post and ONLY until tonight at 7:00 p.m. EDT. If you enter, please return tomorrow when the winners will be announced.


Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away three copies of Making Waves by Tawna Fenske in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Tawna Fenske and Making Waves. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 22, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Katie Alender and From Bad to Cursed

June 06, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

When Katie Alender wrote her debut YA novel Bad Girls Don’t Die as a stand alone book, she tied it up with a relatively happy ending. In fact two years ago, this presentation/review — Presenting Debutante Katie Alender and Bad Girls Don’t Die — noted:

It’s a book about strong teenage females who have their own problems and find their own solutions, doing so without being dependent and reliant on males. The author’s heroine, Alexis, figures out that she has the strength and intelligence to not only fight her own battles but to be victorious…not that it’s easy, of course.

And concludes with:

Yet as innocent as it is scary, the author’s empathetic writing comes down to trusting and protecting the people we care about most.

Since those words hold true and always will, how does the author manage to untie the bow of a happy ending and create even greater problems in the second book of the series, Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed releasing next Tuesday, June 14, 2011?

Actually there was a realistic and simple solution as Katie explains:

“This series is all about Alexis’s arc—who she is at the beginning of the first book, how she transforms, and who she is at the end of the third book. The first book, to me, was about trust and openness.

“This book is about compassion—or the consequences of a lack of compassion. Alexis came out of the first book assuming Kasey [her younger sister] was just kind of weak and maybe a little foolish. In this book, she realizes that everyone can stumble and make mistakes. And she also realizes that people can be stronger than you give them credit for.”

Those thoughts then evolved into this From Bad to Cursed synopsis:

Alexis Warren is totally the last girl you’d expect to sell her soul.

She already has everything she needs—an adorable boyfriend, the perfect best friend, and a little sister who’s finally recovering after being possessed by an evil spirit. She’s is thrilled and relieved when her sister joins a club; new friends are just what Kasey needs.

So, yeah, it’s a little strange how fast the girls in the Sunshine Club go from dorky and antisocial to gorgeous and popular… but playing with the paranormal is what got Kasey locked up last year—she must know better than to mess with the dark side again… right?

Um, not so much. Soon Alexis learns that the girls have pledged an oath to a seemingly benevolent spirit named Aralt. Not trusting Kasey to fix the situation herself, Alexis and her best friend Megan decide to investigate by joining the club. Alexis trades in her pink hair and punky clothes for a mainstream look, and quickly finds herself reveling in her newfound elegance and success.

Faster than you can say “J. Crew,” Alexis has forgotten why she joined in the first place. Surely it wasn’t to destroy Aralt… why would she hurt someone who gives her so much—and asks for so little in return?

Although this novel can be gory and “gooey,” its true horror comes from Aralt’s supernatural curse/blessing. Given the opportunity to be perfect, to be successful, to be golden might tempt anyone at any age, but how acquiescent would a teenage girl be? And, while Alexis still maintains most of the mental strength she possessed in the first book, her emotional convictions falter now.

Even more diabolically delicious is the adult character — also “charmed” by Aralt’s oath. She may, in fact, remind readers of any number of real life people seemingly leading a golden life. Have those “fortunate” ones — who have it all — made a pact? Perhaps. Yet they too do crumble and fall….even harder than most.

Katie understands how self-destructive this can be, saying:

“I think a lot of people sell their souls for success—look at men like Bernie Madoff, whose own son committed suicide out of shame and despair. In every industry you’ll find people willing to trade tiny pieces of their humanity for success and recognition. The sad thing is, they do it of their own accord.”

Which is why she shares her feelings through writings and speech:

“One thing I try to emphasize if I’m talking to teens or aspiring writers is that you can’t go by the world’s definition of success. Look at all of the wealthy, beautiful, famous people whose lives end up in ruins. It’s so easy to be tempted by what someone else has—but often those people are trapped in miserable existences. Money, fame, Oscars, Pulitzers—none of it means anything if you can’t look yourself in the eye every morning.”

Without giving away any *spoilers*, Alexis does find it difficult to look herself in the eye every morning. For, in this book, the character’s healthy self-confidence has been replaced by over-confidence based on building herself up by belittling others. Yes she’s earned success, but she’s a teenager who is still growing and in need of understanding her own weaknesses. Despite Aralt’s “gifts,” Alexis is far from perfect. However, once she recognizes her mistakes, can she be strong enough to correct them to save herself, her sister, and others?

Hmm, that answer may be obvious by knowing there’s a book three. Still that doesn’t diminish the thrill and fun of the heart-pounding From Bad to Cursed and its message of compassion. Alexis must learn to understand what her sister really needs, rather then judging and deciding for her. Next Tuesday, June 14th in bookstores/online retailers, her lonely, frightening, and chillingly profound journey begins. It’s a great, entertaining read. Enjoy….with compassion!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of From Bad to Cursed by Katie Alender 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, June 8, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Katie Alender on Running on Empty

May 31, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Blank pages. At one point or another, most writers fear them. However, in today’s guest post, Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA, and Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed YA coming June 14, 2011) describes two different blank pages and how one applies to us all.]

Running On Empty

A lot has been said about blank pages. As a writer, you can’t escape them. They’re in your job description. A first draft is nothing but blank pages. And even when you’re revising and feeling good—coasting along with the confidence of a puppy—BOOM! One pops up, right in your face: a blank page.

The farther I get on a project and the harder I work, the more I notice a distressing trend: blank pages start following me around. They find me at Twitter, where 140 characters suddenly seem insurmountable. They find me at Facebook, where no phrase on earth seems sufficiently pithy/hilarious/relevant. And they lurk at my blog, where the “New Post” screen stares me down like the eye of a giant killer whale.

In these helpless moments, it inevitably hits me: “I can’t do it. I’m out. I literally can’t think of a single thing to say.”

And then I think, “Aaaaaaargh, I suck!”

But then, a few seconds later, something odd happens: I start to feel okay about it. In fact, I start to feel good.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there are actually two kinds of blank pages. There’s the kind everybody thinks of: the kind that means you haven’t started yet. But there’s another kind, too: the kind that you earn.

And as a writer, I’m always in pursuit of the second kind.

Over the holidays, I went skiing in Colorado. To say I’ve never been much of a skier is an insult to actual skiers everywhere. (I’m better described as a “faller/cryer.”) But this time, I really wanted to learn. So I spent five hours a day, for all four days, in ski school. I suited up and headed out while the rest of the family was still drinking their coffee. I missed the ball dropping, went to bed at nine, and skied on New Year’s Day. I skied when it was minus twenty degrees and our hair froze into icy webs around our faces. I skied when my instincts told me to toss myself into the snow and cry.

At the end of every day, I felt like I’d earned something. By the end of the week… well, you couldn’t say I was a good skier. But I’d made a lot of progress. More importantly, I knew I’d given it every ounce of energy I had. And that felt amazing.

When I’m neck-deep in a draft or a revision, feeling utterly flummoxed, my five-day-old status update or my empty “New Post” screen is actually a tiny signal that I might be doing something right. Yeah, there are little boats waiting in the harbor, but that’s because the tugboats are out there in the open water, bringing in the tanker.

It’s terrifically bracing to work to your limit. Suddenly, the mythical blank page isn’t terrifying; it’s simply impossible. It’s not scary; it’s just a mountain to be climbed another day. And because you’ve conquered so many before, you stop associating them with terror and start thinking of them as a canvas for fresh starts and new possibilities.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Whatever it is you love, whatever you’re committed to, do it until you’ve used yourself up. Then take a break, recharge, come back with a full tank…

And say good morning to the next blank page.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Art of Forgetting by Camille Noe Pagán in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Camille Noe Pagán and The Art of Forgetting. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 1, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Katie Alender

May 25, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

When YA author Katie Alender debuted in April, 2009 with Bad Girls Don’t Die, it was considered a standalone novel. But its success had her publisher, Hyperion, thinking a three book series and the second book of that series — Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed — releases on June 14, 2011, the third (yet untitled) will follow next summer.

In a very brief description: The BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE series is a chilling lineup of horror novels for teens.

Scary and excellent with the following honors bestowed on Book 1, BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE:

~Selected for the Tayshas Reading List of the Texas Library Association

~Available through Scholastic Book Clubs

~Named to the New York Public Library’s 2010 Stuff for the Teen Age list

Now Book 2, FROM BAD TO CURSED has already earned this Praise:

“This book made me wish I still slept with a night-light! A smart, scary ride.”
– Melissa de la Cruz, NYT bestselling author of the Blue Bloods Series

“FROM BAD TO CURSED sent a creepy, delicious chill up my spine. All I could think when I turned the last page was more, more, more!”
- Heather Brewer, NYT bestselling author of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod Series

“In the classic tradition of Stephen King, Alender will have you sleeping with the lights on.”
- Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia, NYT Bestselling authors of the Beautiful Creatures Series

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of From Bad to Cursed on Monday, June 6, 2011 but, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Katie Alender is the author of the Bad Girls Don’t Die series from Disney-Hyperion. She is a graduate of the Florida State University Film School and lives in Los Angeles. When she’s not writing novels, she can usually be found in her sewing room, making things for her friends or her dog (or her friends’ dogs). She enjoys reading, eating delicious high-calorie foods, and hanging out with her husband and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Winston.

Of course there’s so much more to Katie as she reveals:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Always curious, always fascinated; much love; loved well.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: My short one: Judge not lest ye be judged.

My long one is a Heinlein quote:
“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
~ Robert A. Heinlein

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Keeping one’s priorities in order and always finding something to look forward to. (I’m pretty good with part B, but still working on part A!)

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Being actively disliked for being who I really am. (Indifference I can live with!) It has taken me many years to be content with myself, and part of that is based on the kitten-like trust I have that people respond to other people who are genuinely trying to be as real and kind as possible. There is a great deal of intolerance in the world, much of it based on a refusal to look past one’s own perception and judgment of others. And I feel that a lot of evil is rooted in that lack of compassion. It’s scary and sad to me.

Also, looking dumb in public.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: Either in a small pub in a rainy town in Ireland or in my house. If you look up “homebody” in the dictionary, I’m there.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I have a great admiration for CS Lewis and the way his mind worked, and the way he was always on the lookout for beauty, fascination, and meaning; and he stayed humble (at least in his writings, he did).

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: I admire any person who has a dream or a calling and follows it whole-heartedly and fearlessly, especially if doing so doesn’t involve stomping on other people.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases
A: seriously, honestly, holy moly (in my books it’s people looking, sighing, glancing, and turning–but to be fair, we all do quite a lot of looking, glancing, and turning in our everyday lives… I’m just keeping it real)

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I wish I had some kind of musical ability. I would love to be able to sing and play the piano. If there were elective surgery that could make you a good singer, I would get it. Just for my own amusement.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Obviously there are the books. Other than that, I would say it’s my ability to truly enjoy 99% of people I come into contact with and to make them feel happy and appreciated.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I can be paranoid. Also, I’m horrible at sharing food. I’m like a cavewoman. And I think sometimes I can be a smartass.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: My ability to be interested in almost anything or anyone.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I make it a point not to regret things that have had a profound impact on my life, because those events shaped me, for better or for worse. There have been times when I’ve been unkind to people, and I regret those times very much.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: Hey, I gotta be me. I have to see where this train is going!

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Gosh, I don’t really know. I don’t know how most people perceive me. I know some people think I’m funny, and some people tell me I’m very relaxed (which I find hilarious, because I feel pretty wound up most of the time).

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: I’m a big fan of Professor Snape, as he’s played by Alan Rickman in the Harry Potter movies.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’m not much of a sports fan! The opportunity would probably be wasted on me. I would be interested in sitting next to a very good figure skater at a competition and having them analyze the competitors for me.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: This is going to be oddly specific. When you’re waiting for your bags at the luggage carousel, trying not to shove in too close, and clueless people come and stand directly in front of you. Like, why on earth do you think I’m standing here, for my health? Can’t we all stand five feet back and step forward when our bags are close by?

I also hate it when people abuse waiters, flight attendants–anyone you have any kind of power over. Get over yourself! Be a human being!

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: Sewing

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: If I could just keep doing what I’m currently doing, I’d be pretty happy. I’m also looking forward to being a mom (at some point–that’s not an admission of anything)!

If I had to choose something else, I’d like to be a teacher and work with tweens and teens.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Competence, humor, and humility.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Oh, Lordy. Can I pick something with lots of ingredients, so I can make myself different variations? How about a stew? In terms of the least offensive food, probably english muffins the way I eat them every morning–one half with butter and cinnamon-sugar, the other half with peanut butter. Or Diet Coke. Which would probably ensure that the rest of the days would pass quickly.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: Alice in Wonderland, played by Dave Brubeck
Jolene, by Dolly Parton
Work, by Jars of Clay
Let’s Live for Today, by the Grass Roots
Romeo and Juliet, (as performed by the Killers… the original was Elvis Costello)

Q; What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris
Fair and Tender Ladies, by Lee Smith
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen

Smart, funny, and such an honest, standup individual, Katie Alender is one of the best role model for young adults. Follow her — or have your daughter, granddaughter, niece, etc. follow — on Twitter, become a fan of her Series on Facebook, and a fan on her 
Author Facebook page.

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

Favorite Fictional Worlds, III

May 19, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

As must be known by now, Eleanor Brown’s (The Weird Sisters) alternative answer for a fictional BFF inspired TDW to ask its other authors her question:

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

This final week features responses from the following writers, including Eleanor with a new answer:

~Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA, and Bad Girls Don’t Die: From Bad to Cursed YA coming June 14, 2011):

“I’m too much of a pragmatist (okay, I’ll admit it… I’m a homebody/hermit) to want to stray too far from home for any extended period of time–but I wouldn’t mind spending a week with the Darcys at Pemberley! I’d also be curious to drop in on Galt’s Gulch from “Atlas Shrugged.”‘

~Elise Allen (Populazzi YA coming August 1, 2011):

“Easy — I want to live in Harry Potter’s world. I’d opt for being Hermione — the perfect mix of magic and muggle. Plus I really really want her watch that stops time and gives her extra hours in the day.”

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

“I would love to live in the world JK Rowling created. Even with the evil Voldermort around, it’d be great fun to do magic and fly and see dragons and such. Alternatively, I’d love to create a literary world half as rich as the one she created.”

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“Maeve Binchy’s Dublin, with all its warm, interconnected characters and cozy homes. Optimally, I’d have Maeve herself as my tour guide, too!”

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

“I’ve always wanted to live in Narnia. One of my favorite books is A HORSE AND HIS BOY. I loved the ideas of talking animals. And although there is war there (and nasty witches, etc.), the kids and animals were seen as wise and valuable members of society. Narnia is a true Utopia where all living things are respected (since the trees themselves could tell you that they didn’t want to be cut down), and any hardships are overcome with friendly help from neighbors.”

~Laura Dave (The First Husband The Divorce Party, London Is the Best City in America):

“I’d like to visit several fictional worlds — and live there temporarily! Top of my list: The fictional town of Meryton in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.”

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

“I’d want to live in Oz, but unlike Dorothy, I would STAY there!”

~Jael McHenrty (The Kitchen Daughter):

“For some reason the first thing that popped into my head is that I’d want to live next door to Meg Murry’s family, from A Wrinkle in Time. Although I suppose that’s cheating since what I really want is to go on all Meg’s adventures, and meet Mrs. Who and Mrs. Which, and Calvin O’Keefe… you get the idea. Basically, I want to be a Murry.”

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

“As I thought and thought on this, I realized why I was coming up blank. I am drawn to dark novels of dysfunctional families that they make me grateful to stay in my own dysfunctional world. Maybe that’s a blessing, or maybe that’s why I read them: there but for the grace of God go I, and thank God that my life isn’t that bad. Every sunny novel I read makes me incredibly jealous. I remember as a kid swooning in envy over LITTLE WOMEN and wanting to be in the bosom of that family. Another one was CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN. Having a tiny family, somehow that seemed like the height of happiness–being surrounded by 11 other siblings.”

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

“I’d like to live with the March sisters and their wonderful Marmee. I’d help Jo with the school, and Amy would teach me to paint.”

~Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translatio , and ebook, Marriage in Translation: Foreign Wife, Japanese Husband [Kindle Edition]):

“When I think of a fictional world or neighborhood I go back to the books I loved as a child. And the one that comes to mind is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I’d love to be able to stow away into a private, secret magical garden perhaps to write or just enjoy the sunshine.”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“I will now confess a guilty pleasure of my youth: Sweet Valley High novels! Okay, I wouldn’t want to *live* in Sweet Valley, but it would be a hoot to visit. I think I would be friends with Winston Egbert.”

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Announcement: The winners of Julianna Baggott’s (Bridget Asher novel), The Provence Cure for the Brokenhearted, are Janel and Jane Cook. Congratulations!

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

Fan Mail: An Author’s
Most Memorable Reward, II

September 23, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

Last month’s post on how much fan mail meant to authors surprised some visitors, while inspiring others to finally write their own personal messages. The written word is powerful in expressing heartfelt gratitude and here are more author responses to memorably touching fan mail:

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

“A man wrote to say that my depiction of alcohol and drug addiction (in a teenage character, Hunter Cay) felt very real. He’d finished my novel between classes and had been crying when his sixth grade students came in. He wrote, “Thanks for touching my heart.” Which, in turn, touched mine. It is so wonderful and kind for people to take the time to write and share like that.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“One tremendously moving piece of fan mail came from a woman who wrote that REMEDIES had resonated with her own personal tragedy. I got teary at my computer when I read her note. Like the characters in REMEDIES, she and her husband had lost a child. She wrote that the effects of that loss have continued to ripple through her marriage. She wrote that the novel had been difficult to read, and also, ultimately, comforting, and that even though her own outcome was still in progress, the book had come along at exactly the right time.”

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

“These days you receive more emails than mail, I’m afraid. I did get a request from a girl to sign my photo and send it to her for her scrapbook. It made me feel like a teen rock star, so of course I did it. I’ve really enjoyed hearing from people. It means a lot when someone tells me that they stayed up half the night, or were late because they simply had to finish my book. It makes me feel like I’ve done my job right.”

~Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“They’re all memorable, because I’m touched every time a reader takes the time to let me know how much they loved my book.”

~CJ Lyons (Lifelines, Warning Signs, Urgent Care, and Critical Condition coming November 30, 2010):

“I’ve gotten several letters from fans facing painful medical crises, including one woman whose cancer pain kept her up at nights, unable to sleep or get comfortable. They have written thanking me for providing them with escape from the pain of their lives as they read my books.

The fact that my stories have been able to help these people facing their diseases with dignity and courage brought me to tears…truly better than any award my books could ever win!”

~Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“I’ve had so many amazing letters from readers world-wide; one that I loved came from the mother of seven-year-old twin girls who, after reading SOUVENIR, was inspired to create a journal for their future benefit, and to buy each of them a copy of SOUVENIR, which she was storing away in their “hope chests” to be read when they’re teens. A recent letter of praise from a woman who is a Medical Social Worker and who deals every day with patients in heartbreaking situations was also very rewarding.”

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

“The young woman who wrote to say that she was able to finally extricate herself from both her dysfunctional marriage and her ongoing affair with her also-married boss because she read “Inappropriate Men”. She wrote from her fabulous new job, where she had met her fabulous (and single!) new boyfriend who worked in the same building. She said that she had felt completely trapped and that the book helped her find her spine. That e-mail gave me goosebumps.”

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

“My most memorable wasn’t my best, but a long letter quoting all the passages from my first book that had anything to do with sex and suggesting that I and the letter writer would really understand one another. (Oh, dear.) I also remember one I got after my second book, which was about female friendship, from a woman who’d lost her best friend in Iraq. That one was lovely and very sad.”

~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010):

“I received a letter from a 93 year-old woman who said that she loved my book and was so glad it was available in large print. She went on to say that she read it twice because, at her age, she was running out of time and didn’t know if she’d be around if/when the movie came out. It was so touching.”

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I think it would have to be after I published a short story in a literary journal that was put out by a university in Florida years ago. It was handwritten – a page and a half long – from a young woman who claimed to have read the story so many times she felt like the characters were people she knew. She went on to tell me she had written a paper on the story for her English seminar class. It was a pretty cool ego boost for a struggling writer who wrote late at night after work.”

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

“I love every bit of fan mail I get. From the adorable one-line emails just telling me how much they enjoyed the book to the detailed breakdowns of all of the elements they liked (and why). I get a lot of emails saying I’ve inspired them to write (very flattering), a lot saying that they can relate to Alexis and her sense of outsiderness (very touching), and a lot with interpretations of the book that reflect a cinematic mind at work (very interesting). I am convinced that I have the brightest and funniest fans of any book, ever! I must say, I especially love getting snailmail (as TDW might be aware).”

~Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined):

“One of my favorite notes was from a reader who enjoyed my debut with a stiff drink and added, “Only wished I had a joint to join Mira” who is, as constant TDW readers will know, the flower child grandmother protagonist. I think my favorite fan interaction was in person, at my book launch event. A woman I didn’t know told me she went out and scheduled her mammogram after reading about how my protagonist delayed her own, with severe consequences. I was so touched and honored that my book prompted her to take such an important step, and that she felt moved to share that with me.”

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Jenny Nelson’s debut novel Georgia’s Kitchen are Keetha and Maria M.. Congratulations!

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

How Authors Bid Their Characters Adieu

August 12, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Knowing that memorable characters linger in readers’ minds well beyond the last page of a novel, The Divining Wand wondered about the authors’ experience in letting them go. After creating and living through them for months, years….the question was asked: How do you say “goodbye?”

Here are several responses:

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

“I don’t think I do say good-bye to characters. Because they’re mine, I get to carry them around in my head and watch them live out their lives. It’s very different from being a reader and finishing a book and feeling that sense of loss–I feel that a lot when I finish my favorite books. Thankfully, as a writer, I am the Supreme Authority over my characters, where they go, what they do, and all that. I’m pleased to report that they all lived happily ever after!”

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I haven’t yet said goodbye to the characters in THE SUMMER WE FELL APART—book groups – (I just visited my 53rd) have kept these characters alive for me much longer than I ever dreamed. Even though in my writing world I have moved on to another set of characters – readers have allowed me to keep tabs on the Haas siblings – and I love that.”

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

“I don’t. When I finish a book, I always keep open the possibility that I’ll get to revisit with them at some point. Since I really and truly love all my characters–I feel like they are my friends–and at the same time, also spend somewhere around three hundred pages torturing them in the name of that annoying thing called “‘plot'”, I sometimes feel like it’s merciful when I leave them alone for a while.”

~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010):

“I can’t say goodbye, I still think of them and will most likely bring them back in future works in cameo appearances.”

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

“You mean if I don’t kill them? I let them go gently. I try to give them new emotional tools–empathy, or fortitude, or simply hope–and then place them gently into their new surroundings…without me.”

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

“I think of the last lines of my books as their goodbye, and my goodbye to them. If I can get the last line right I feel I’ve given them a fitting send-off.”

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Julie Buxbaum’s “signed” copies of After You are Jenny and Colleen Turner. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and Julie will send out your book as soon as possible.

Author News and New Authors

July 29, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, News

Welcome to The Divining Wand’s last post of July and, while not dismissing summertime in August, there is a feeling of fall around here! That’s correct, fresh and new ideas have either recently launched or will soon, beginning with the multi-talented Katie Alender (Bad Girls Don’t Die YA).

On Tuesday, July 27, 2010, Katie and fellow YA writers took “getting to know authors beyond their pages” to a vlog level. Here’s a portion of the Press Release for AuthorMix:

A new web-based video series aims to give teen readers a “fly on the wall” look at their favorite authors.

Los Angeles, CA — July 27, 2010 — In an effort to reach out to their web-savvy readers, many authors now turn to video, releasing video blogs (“vlogs”), book trailers, and even virtual book tours (as recently mentioned in the New York Times: A new web video series takes this one step further by bringing together a group of authors in a roundtable format, letting readers eavesdrop on conversations about life, love, high school, writing, and publication. AUTHORMIX is like listening in on the green room at a book festival–personal, honest, and unrehearsed.

“The whole thing started because I would read blogs or tweets about authors who got together for one reason or another,” says creator/host, author Katie Alender. “And what I really wanted to know was–what do they talk about when they’re just hanging out?”

In an effort to find out, she came up with the idea for an off-the-cuff style video series that would give authors a chance to chat in a relaxed environment.

Participating authors are Melissa de la Cruz (New York Times best-selling author of The Au Pairs and Blue Bloods series of novels for young adults); Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (New York Times best-selling authors of Beautiful Creatures, also one of’s Ten Best Books of 2009); Cecil Castellucci (author of Beige, Boyproof, Queen of Cool, and The Plain Janes series for DC Comics); and Katie Alender (author of the Bad Girls Don’t Die series).

[For more information, please visit the site and follow AuthorMix on Twitter. Congratulations, Katie!]

As for this site’s news, regular visitors may have noticed that TDW recently has featured three “new” authors:

~ Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography)

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

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

And, now, I proudly announce the following authors have also joined our community and will be appearing on these pages soon:

~ Kate Ledger (Remedies)

~ TanyaEgan Gibson (How to Buy a Love of Reading)

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

~ Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt releasing in Trade Paperback October 26, 2010)

~ Katharine Davis (A Slender Thread, East Hope, Capturing Paris)

Also expect more guest author posts and (hopefully) a weekly Q&A with readers asking questions of the featured author. Indeed fall is in the air….

* * * * *

Announcement: The winner of Claire Cook’s Seven Year Switch is Amy Chase. Congratulations.

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your 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…

Our Authors’ Best Writing Advice

April 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

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


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