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Summer’s TBR Lists

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

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

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

This week the following writers replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

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

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

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

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

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

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

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

To be continued….

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

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

Favorite Fictional Worlds, I

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

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

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

This week the following writers replied:

~ Joëlle Anthony (Restoring Harmony YA):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

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

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

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

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

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

~Holly LeCraw (The Swimming Pool):

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

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

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

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

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

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

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

~Lori Roy (Bent Road):

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

To be continued….

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

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

Go-to Writing Books

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

At one time or another, before as well as during her/his writing career, a published author has likely read more than a few books on the art and craft of writing. Whether it’s for motivation or inspiration, favorites must exist to be read and reread whenever the need arises. With this thought in mind, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

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

And this week the following authors replied:

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

“Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott, Story by Robert McKee, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass, The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.”

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

“I like to read John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist every now and then, along with Stephen King’s On Writing. They’re conversant and inspirational. I like Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, Anne Bernays’ What If?, and Writing Fiction by Janet Burroway. Then there are the novels that I pull from the shelves when I need to remember what gorgeous writing looks like–we all need role models, after all: Bel Canto by Anne Patchett is a favorite.”

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

“It changes. I fall in love with authors every week. I’m in no way a monogamous reader. I’d hate to be my reader girlfriend because I could never commit. So sometimes I read Erma Bombeck, Nora Ephron, Elizabeth Berg and other days it’s Jackie Mitchard, Jane Hamiliton, Elizabeth Strout. I use books to get permission for oddities in my writing. Since grammar and punctuation is often beyond me (my spell check program is so totally superior and snarky), I like to get the nod from authors who take liberties with language.”

~Sarah Jio (The Violets of March coming April 26, 2011):

“For fiction, nada. I rely on my brain and sometimes good ol’ Google to check a fact. (Though when I’m researching a new book (or even just a book idea), I try to get my hands on every relevant book I can find on my subject/time period. This is the fun part! For instance, recently, I have been researching the 1920’s and loving the book “Flapper,” for a new novel I’m working on). But when I’m doing a magazine story, I’m always referring to the latest and newest nonfiction books—self-help, diet, fitness, etc. I have a huge stack of these books on my desk at any given moment.”

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

“John Truby, The Anatomy of Story. Brilliant structural advice.”

~Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home):

“When it comes to an author’s voice, I connect most with Jodi Picoult. Her lyricism, analogies, and often simple statements that convey profound beauty are a great inspiration, specifically whenever I find myself struggling to write after being away from a manuscript too long. And the opening sentences of her novels? Wowsers. I dare any reader to stop after reading only the first line.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Bent Road by Lori Roy is karenk. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be Pre-ordered for its release one week from today.

Kristina McMorris and Letters from Home

February 21, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the age of nine, Kristina McMorris has been a successful actress, TV show host, entrepreneur, and public relations expert but tomorrow she embraces the role of debut novelist with the launch of her historical fiction, WWII saga, Letters From Home.

Inspired by the discovery of her grandfather’s courtship letters to Grandma Jean during WWII (see Tales of the Past), Kristina soon began to ask “what if?” the couple’s relationship through their correspondence had been based on deceit. And, simply put, that is the backstory for the novel which honors the author’s grandparents as well as all the other brave, unsung heroes of the Greatest Generation.

Here is the synopsis of Letters from Home:

Chicago, 1944. Liz Stephens has little interest in attending a USO club dance with her friends Betty and Julia. She doesn’t need a flirtation with a lonely serviceman when she’s set to marry her childhood sweetheart. Yet something happens the moment Liz glimpses Morgan McClain. They share only a brief conversation – cut short by the soldier’s evident interest in Betty – but Liz can’t forget him. Thus, when Betty asks her to ghostwrite a letter to Morgan, stationed overseas, Liz reluctantly agrees.

Thousands of miles away, Morgan struggles to adjust to the brutality of war. His letters from “Betty” are a comfort, their soul-baring correspondence a revelation to them both. While Liz is torn by her feelings for a man who doesn’t know her true identity, Betty and Julia each become immersed in their own romantic entanglements. And as the war draws to a close, all three will face heart-wrenching choices, painful losses, and the bittersweet joy of new beginnings.

Now watch and listen to Kristina explain and describe her storyline:

In addition to providing an Excerpt from Letters from Home Chapter One, the author also shares a few of her grandfather’s original letters in Mail Call.

The Raves & Reviews have been wonderful and include:

“Ambitious and compelling…[a] sweeping debut.”__Publishers Weekly

Yet the true testament to this book’s advance success can be viewed by its growing sales of global rights, book club rights sold to Doubleday and Reader’s Digest, film rights being shopped by the prestigious Creative Artists Agency of Los Angeles, and the book’s spotlight in the current issue of Woman’s Day magazine.

What is it about this novel that offers a universal appeal? Perhaps the love story depicted through intimate correspondence, the human triumphs and tragedies of a war fought to end all wars, a connection to what most of our grandparents lived through, the consequences of deceit, and the stirrings of women’s independence on the homefront and even close to the frontlines.

Of course more than likely it’s a combination of all these storyline elements bound together by the author’s distinctive and elegant writing style. The word “lovely” has been used often to describe Letters from Home and Kristina’s choice of words/phrasing are quite lovely. Her style lends itself, in its measured tones, to the characters’ voices, emotions, and behavior. After all much more privacy prevailed then than it does now in casual, contemporary times. Also the mere fact that this debut novelist is paying homage to a generation, being lost to attrition and barely mentioned in public school history classes, is a love letter of its own.

Admitting she previously had not been an avid fiction reader, The Divining Wand asked the author how she became a fiction writer? And she explained:

“I’ve learned the most from simply writing and revising. Fellow authors were kind enough to offer critiques, as well as many contest judges. And, of course, I discovered the magic of reading. I also applied a great deal of what I learned from years of acting, including character arcs, scene elements, and plot points. When it comes to developing goals, motivation, and conflict, there is very little difference between a scene on stage and one in a book.”

Interesting how two creative processes are similar, isn’t it? And why it’s not surprising to discover that, since Kristina initially envisioned the story as a movie, the storyline played out in her head and she wrote from there. In fact she details the experience:

“The story came to me like a movie while I was walking on the treadmill one day. Once I hopped off, I jotted down an outline, describing the scenes/chapters in a sentence or two, from beginning to end. Additional story lines for the secondary characters, namely Julia and Betty, evolved in later drafts, but the final scene I first envisioned–even one of the last dialogue lines–remains the same in the finished book.”

While loss of innocence is a major theme of the novel, so too are sacrifice, the search for inner strength, and the journey toward a woman’s ability to make her own choices. The reality of war causes the novel to have less than an “happily ever after” ending for all the characters, however these characters do share the book’s message — appearances can be deceiving. And, from the first page to the last, the reader discovers that every character is not who they first seemed to be.

Of course, as has been noted, this is also a tribute to all the men and women of the World War II generation, and — on a personal level — Kristina’s Grandma Jean. The Divining Wand asked the author if she had achieved “favorite grandchild” status for writing the book and Kristina said:

“Grandma Jean is definitely tickled, but I admit, she tends to be very even keeled about anything you toss her way. She did, after all, survive the rigors of a childhood on the farm, the Great Depression, and a world war. That said, she’s one of the sweetest, strongest, most loving, and most gracious women I’ve ever known. I absolutely adore her, and am honored to call her my grandmother. So I’m especially excited that she’ll be attending my official book launch event at Barnes & Noble to meet attendees and even sign some copies.” 🙂

How lovely! And how generous is the fact that a portion of sales proceeds will benefit United Through Reading®, a nonprofit organization that video records deployed U.S. military personnel reading bedtime stories for their children.

Letters From Home will be available in bookstores and through online retailers tomorrow. A multi-generational read, it’s a remembrance of gratitude owed to the past — a most lovely, entertaining reminder.

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[For the third consecutive week in a row Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) and Caroline Leavtitt (Pictures of You) are on The New York Times Bestseller List. To meet these authors when they hit the road again in early March and throughout the spring, please check Eleanor’s Events and Caroline’s Appearances (scroll down the page). ]

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Kristina McMorris’s Letters from Home 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, February 23, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

Guest Kristina McMorris on Tales of the Past:
What we can learn from listening

February 15, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Wisdom, truth and our personal family history are often as near as our grandparents or other older relatives yet do we take the time to ask and listen to their richly detailed experiences? Several years ago Kristina McMorris (Letters From Home coming February 22, 2011) discovered that her grandmother held treasures and stories that could never be found in any social media content. In today’s guest post, the debut novelist shares how what she learned by listening changed her life.]

TALES OF THE PAST: What we can learn from listening

Indeed, at some point, we’ve all heard about the daily hardships of living many decades ago. In fact, it’s become a common punch line guaranteed to garner chuckles: (spoken in a crotchety, old man voice) “When I was your age, I walked ten miles to school every day. Uphill both ways, in a blizzard, and with no shoes. But I didn’t dare complain, because I was lucky to have a school at all.”

I admit, the “uphill both ways” part always makes me laugh. You’d think after hearing it at least a hundred times, it would inevitably get old. But alas, no. There’s just something humorous about those legendary claims, so outlandish they couldn’t possibly be real.

Or could they?

When I was little, I used to love listening to my grandmother share memories of her childhood spent on her family’s Iowa farm. I still recall tales about my great uncles’ orneriness, of his driving the tractor into a lake and pouring sugar into the gas tank. I remember being shocked by Grandma’s mention of buying only one pair of shoes a year. (Given that my trendy Jelly shoes tended to break apart within a month, this bit of information made a lasting impression.)

As time passed, however, Grandma Jean told fewer and fewer stories, and not because she was running low on anecdotes, rather I suspect, because the grandchildren stopped asking. We became teenagers, then college students. We got jobs to pay for our cars and mortgages and electronic gadgets that are now obsolete. The quick pace of life rather than another’s nostalgic memories took precedence.

Then, several years ago, amid all that craziness, I decided to self-publish a cookbook filled with recipes Grandma Jean had collected and created over decades, a holiday gift for the family. Almost as an afterthought, I added a biographical section. And it was solely for that reason, while lounging in her cabin by the lake—with no cell phone to answer, no Internet to surf—that I spent an afternoon with my grandmother, asking questions.

Fascinating tidbits abounded as she recounted days of working as a soda jerk, a nanny, and even a worker at a battery factory. She told me about hunting for catfish in the muddy banks near the farm, about playing on the girls’ basketball team in high school, and how she milked the cows and gathered eggs every morning before school—which, by the way, did actually require a minimum walk of six miles to attend. (No hills either way, though; she was, after all, in Iowa!)

Finally, came the greatest highlight of all: From a closet she retrieved a collection of courtship letters sent by my late grandfather during World War II, a collection I had no idea existed. A collection that ultimately changed the course of my life.

For, when I left my grandmother’s house, the sailor’s written messages lingering in my mind, I began to imagine what could be a wonderful premise for a movie: What if a soldier, in the midst of WWII, fell deeply in love through a yearlong letter exchange, unaware that the girl he’s writing to isn’t the one replying?

Before I knew it, I was at my keyboard, attempting to compose my very first novel, LETTERS FROM HOME. Now, as a published and full-time author, I remain utterly grateful for that afternoon at the cabin, and, most all, for Grandma Jean’s stories. Each one comes from a place of wisdom and experience, from a way of life many today know too little about.

So, once in a while, set down your cell phones, hit pause on the daily chaos—and simply listen to tales of the past. It’s amazing how their storytellers can touch your heart, even change your life, if only you take time to ask.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Sarah Pekkanen and Skipping a Beat. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, February 16, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Kristina McMorris

February 09, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Kristina McMorris, a former child television star and public relations professional, admits that she was barely a fiction reader when first discovering her grandparents’ World War II correspondence. However those written exchanges inspired her to write and become a novelist as Letters From Home debuts on February 22, 2011.

This one sentence description tells: Letters from Home is a story of hope and connection, of sacrifices made in love and war–and the chance encounters that change us forever.

And Early Praise claims:

“Ambitious and compelling…[a] sweeping debut.”
PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

“An absolutely lovely debut novel.”
KRISTIN HANNAH, New York Times bestselling author of Firefly Lane

“A novel to savor and remember.”
BEN SHERWOOD, president of ABC News and bestselling author of The Death & Life of Charlie St. Cloud

“Skillfully written… sweeps the reader away.”
LYNN “BUCK” COMPTON, “Band of Brothers” WWII vet

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Letters from Home for Monday, February 21, 2011 but, for now, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

Kristina McMorris penned her first novel, LETTERS FROM HOME, based on inspiration from her grandparents’ wartime courtship. The recipient of a dozen national literary awards, this debut is scheduled for release March 2011 from Kensington Books (US) and Avon/HarperCollins (UK). Kristina has worked as a weekly TV host since age nine, and currently resides in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two sons.

And now it’s time to get to know Kristina, much more upclose and personal:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: Happy, full, loving, blessed, busy, rewarding, adventurous, memorable

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.”

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: Spending a fun day with my husband and two young sons with no deadlines or thoughts about work; only the sound of the kids giggling at each other, topped off with lots of hugs.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: Outliving my children.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: In Italy, eating tiramisu and sipping a cappuccino on a terrace overlooking Florence, where I used to live. 🙂

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: Martin Luther King, Jr. — for the racial views we share on peace and equality

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Any number of the WWII veterans I’ve had the privilege of interviewing in the course of my research. When it comes to humility, there are no better teachers.

Q: What are your most overused words or phrases?
A: In real life. probably the word “crazy” — just because it’s so dang versatile. “Kids, stop acting so crazy!” “Wow…that’s crazy.” See what I mean?

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: Speaking articulately to large crowds without the burden of jittery nerves.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: My children, without question.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
Perfectionism

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: Optimism

Q: What do you regret most?
A: Caring so much about what others thought while in junior high and high school. Don’t we all wish that?

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: I’d have to say Oprah, though just for a day — long enough to experience her fascinating yet hectic daily routine and, of course, to choose my novel for her book club. Duh.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: Physically, that I’m a combination of races (Japanese and Irish-American); personality-wise, that I’m very social.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: In hopes that film references are allowed, this one is a toss up between Maximus from Gladiator and Captain Von Trapp!

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Death, the witty and incredibly compelling narrator in The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I’d have to name a group of athletes: the 1919 Chicago White Sox; and I’d say, “Don’t do it, fellas. Believe me, you’ll regret the decision forever.”

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
A: Drivers who refuse to let you into their lane for no good reason.

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

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: Playing the lead in Miss Saigon on Broadway

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: A good heart, funny, approachable

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: Handmade gnocchi (potato pasta) – yum!

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: One For My Baby (And One More For The Road) by Frank Sinatra; White Christmas by The Drifters; The Dance by Garth Brooks; I’m Yours by Jason Mraz; and Believe by Josh Groban

Q What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: The Book Thief, Water for Elephants, The Help, The Kommandant’s Girl, and Devil At My Heels

Charming, multi-talented, and “very social,” Kristina McMorris is definitely a new author to follow on Twitter and friend on Facebook.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Twin’s Daughter AND the entire Sisters 8 Series, including Petal’s Problems in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Twin’s Daughter, Petal’s Problems. PLEASE indicate which book(s) you prefer. As always, comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is tonight at 7:00 p.m. EST with the winners to be announced here in tomorrow’s post. If you enter, please return tomorrow to see if you’re a winner.

Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, II

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

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

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

And this week the following authors replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart:

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

~Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 – 11 coming April 19, 2011):

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

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

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

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

~Allie Larkin (Stay):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued….

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

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

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

Winter/Spring 2011 Coming Attractions

December 09, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Books

The year of 2010 has been a glorious one here at The Divining Wand. With our authors/friends providing first-class quality through their books and more, how much better could it be?

Well, beginning Monday, January 3, 2011, when Eileen Cook’s (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA) latest YA novel The Education of Hailey Kendrick — already earning a Kirkus starred review — is presented/reviewed, it will launch our exciting winter/spring season.

Look for other of your favorites to return, including:

~Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me) with her second novel, Skipping a Beat coming February 22, 2010, and praised by Emily Giffin.

~Meg Waite Clayton’s (The Wednesday Sisters) highly anticipated The Four Ms. Bradwells releases on March 22, 2011.

~Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography) celebrates with her 8th book, Best Staged Plans, on May 31, 2011.

And, of course, there will be more!

During the past few months many about-to-be authors have been introduced to you, but now let’s put their names and titles into order of debut appearance:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters coming January 20, 2011)

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

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

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

~Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters coming April 12, 2011)

~Sarah Jio (The Violets of March coming April 26, 2011)

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

TRUST: There’s great buzz about each one of these authors. Please explore their websites and/or Pre-order their books.

Here’s to new authors/friends and great reading in the New Year!

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Announcement: The winners of What I Thought I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen are Mary Quackenbush and Ruthie Congratulations!

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

AND

Announcement: The winners of Slim to None by Jenny Gardiner are Dee and Sarah Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be sent out promptly OR indicate you’d like the Kindle Edition.

Best Writing Exercises, Part, III

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

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

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

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

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

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

James King (Bill Warrington’s Last Chance):

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

Kate Ledger (Remedies)

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

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

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

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

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

To be continued….

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

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