The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

Lauren Baratz-Logsted: Why Do I Write?

January 25, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[ After 11 years as an independent bookseller and buyer Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter, Sisters 8 complete series, The Bro-Magnet published in both Kindle and NOOK Book) decided to try her hand at writing and, as is known, discovered success. And, while a complete page lists what she writes, today Lauren answers the question of why.]


The Cliff Notes version? Because I have stories to tell.

The expanded version? The truth is, there are two different kinds of writing for me, best exemplified by how I approach drafts. The first draft of a book is for my own entertainment. That’s why I wrote THE BRO-MAGNET, a comedy about an ultimate man’s man who’s been Best Man eight times when what he really longs to be is a groom. Even though my writing career started with comedic novels for adults, in recent years my focus and success has been in YA and children’s books, so it wasn’t like the traditional publishing world was clamoring for more adult books from me. But I’d gotten the idea, it tickled my fancy, and I couldn’t help but write it because I needed to see how the story would turn out. Once I was finished, I decided maybe others would enjoy it too, so I decided I might publish it as an ebook. Then I started revising.

Remember when I said the first draft was for me? Well, all subsequent drafts are with the audience in mind. Flash-forward to yesterday. I was on Twitter when I came across people who I’d never spoken to before, trading tweets about what the funniest scene in the book was for each. That cat scene that had given me so much pleasure to write? They’d loved it. And the Barn Opera? They thought that was a hoot too. In fact, they thought the whole book was hysterical. Seeing that made it a good day to be me. So that’s why I write: to please myself and to please others.

Oh, and in case your wondering where the title THE BRO-MAGNET came from…

My husband, Greg Logsted, is a novelist by night and a window washer by day. One day he told me about washing some guy’s windows with his crew and how every time he goes to this guy’s house, the guy says, “Let’s go skiing sometime”; “Let’s do this”; “Let’s do that.” It occurred to me that this was not the first time in the 28 years I’ve known Greg that I’d heard something like this: some guy, barely even knowing my husband, wanting to bond and become buddies. This particular instance happened right around the time the word “bromance” entered the lexicon strongly – you’d hear people applying it to TV shows like “House” or films like the Sherlock Holmes versions Robert Downey Jr stars in. Suddenly my brain went poof! like it always does when I have an idea for a new book. Those ideas always begin with “What if…?” In this case, it was “What if there was an ultimate man’s man, a guy that other guys actually fight over to get him to be Best Man at their weddings, but he secretly longs to be a groom?” And of course the hero of this book would be THE BRO-MAGNET.

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Instant Reading Gratification:
Three ebooks at the Ready

January 24, 2012 By: larramiefg Category: ebooks, Recommendations

[Now that ereaders have become more popular than ever The Divining Wand believes that occasional recommendations of ebooks would be a welcome feature. Today, starting off the series of Instant Reading Gratification, there are two comedic novels and one timely drama. May you enjoy!]

Dee DeTarsio (The Scent of Jade) continues to amuse in a thoughtful way with ROS, described as:

DeTarsio’s literary talents shine with tenderness and humor as she once again takes readers into the heart of women’s lives in an unforgettable tale. Filled with friendship, love, loss, betrayal and out-of-this-world challenges that force her characters to find their place in the universe, Ros gives us the hopefully-ever-after we’re all searching for.

When a plane crashed behind Micki Cramer’s house, in San Diego, California, she kept waiting for the sirens and rescue team to show up. As the first responder, it was up to her to tug on the arm that was waving out of the broken wreckage. Holding her breath against the choking smoke, she managed to get the pilot out and carry him to safety into her backyard. He wasn’t that heavy; he was about the size of her 10-year-old nephew, who did play a lot of video games and ate nothing but Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, but still. As it turns out, he wasn’t a guy after all.

Ros, the pilot, was on a mission to find her missing brother who had crash-landed at Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. Seems she was a bad driver, too, missing her target by nearly a thousand miles and more than half a century.

If Ros can teach Micki how to use eleven percent of her brain, how can Micki help Ros?

“San Diego author Dee DeTarsio’s Ros is a charming, action-filled suspense novel…With the clock ticking, Ros is a delightful journey of two characters who each yearn to be better.”

“You’ll laugh a lot when you read this book, but under the humor you’ll detect a deftly written story of the redemptive power of love and friendship.” –Carol K. Carr, author of India Black

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After spending the last few years writing YA and middle grade books, Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Twin’s Daughter and Sisters 8 complete series), the versatile and prolific author has written a light-hearted adult novel, The Bro-Magnet published in both Kindle and NOOK Book format.

The description may cause a smile and nod:

Women have been known to lament, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” For Johnny Smith, the problem is, “Always a Best Man, never a groom.” At age 33, housepainter Johnny has been Best Man eight times. The ultimate man’s man, Johnny loves the Mets, the Jets, his weekly poker game, and the hula girl lamp that hangs over his basement pool table. Johnny has the instant affection of nearly every man he meets, but one thing he doesn’t have is a woman to share his life with, and he wants that desperately. When Johnny meets District Attorney Helen Troy, he decides to renounce his bro-magnet ways in order to impress her. With the aid and advice of his friends and family, soon he’s transforming his wardrobe, buying throw pillows, ditching the hula girl lamp, getting a cat and even changing his name to the more mature-sounding John. And through it all, he’s pretending to have no interest in sports, which Helen claims to abhor. As things heat up with Helen, the questions arise: Will Johnny finally get the girl? And, if he’s successful in that pursuit, who will he be now that he’s no longer really himself? THE BRO-MAGNET is a rollicking comedic novel about what one man is willing to give up for the sake of love.

“…an absolutely charming, feel-good read. Lauren Baratz-Logsted writes genuine characters, killer comedic timing and romantic blunders that are truly something special.” ~ Romantic Times

“There are books that make you happy to be a reader. This is one of those books.” ~ Smitten With Reading

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Although Kim Arbor has answered So Why Does She Wrtie?, what does she write about in His Wife and Daughters that again can be purchased either as a Kindle Edition or a NOOK Book.

Written from past to present, the novel begins:


Trina Brath and her teenage daughters, Jill and Phoebe, lead happy and privileged lives as the wife and daughters of successful five-term California Congressman Dan Brath. But all that changes when Dan, 52, is suspected of having an affair with Lesley Chisholm, a nineteen-year-old Washington DC intern who has gone missing. Soon Dan Brath is being accused in the harsh media spotlight of not only sleeping with Lesley Chisholm, but responsible for her disappearance.

Despite Trina’s standing by her husband and insisting he is not a murderer—yet keeping the secret that he has cheated on her many times before—the incessant media scrutiny puts a strain on the family, causing their lives to go into a tailspin.

Eight months later, when Lesley mysteriously returns home safe and sound, Dan Brath’s career is over, and his family is in tatters.


The scandal that rocked the Brath family continues to take its toll. Amid media reports of new political sexploits almost every week, it’s a handy reference point for a gossip-hungry public. Besides her trust issues with men, Jill self-medicates with food. Phoebe leads a self-destructive life, having been estranged from the family for years. And Trina, who continues to blame Lesley Chisholm for the family’s financial and career misfortunes, maintains a codependent relationship with her husband.

To make matters worse, Lesley Chisholm is breaking her silence with a tell-all memoir—a book Trina is trying to stop—which is sure to make Dan Brath’s wife and daughters relive the trauma all over again. Will Jill, Trina and Phoebe be able to cope, heal their wounds and move on with their lives?

Told from the viewpoints of the three women, His Wife and Daughters is a moving story of how one family attempts to survive the ultimate betrayal.

“Although sensational and devastating, HIS WIFE AND DAUGHTERS is a quiet little novel about real people. …And what they do and say may stun, annoy, or simply amaze you to wonder: How could they or how could they not?

Kim Arbor holds love and loyalty to the ultimate test in this timely book!” ~ Larramie

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ATTENTION: Three Wishes the collaborative true story of three friends’ journey to motherhood (see presentation/review) is officially out in paperback today.


Book Giveaway: In celebration of release day for Sarah McCoy’s The Baker’s Daughter, The Divining Wand will give away one copy of the book — in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 EST tonight! The winner will be announced here on Thursday.

Summer’s TBR Lists, III

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

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

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

This week the following writers replied:

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

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

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

~Eileen Cook (The Education of Hailey Kendrick YA, Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA, Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA, and Fourth Grade Fairy ages 9 -11, Wishes for Beginners ages 9 – 11 coming June 14, 2011, and Gnome Invasion ages 9 – 11 coming August 16, 2011):

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

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

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

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

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

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Things We Didn’t Say by Kristina Riggle

The Girl Who Would Speak for the Dead by Paul Elwork

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

Happy reading!”

To be continued….

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

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

Favorite Fictional Worlds, 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.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever, V

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

No matter the age or stage in life, a best friend forever could be made at any time and the same appears to hold true for bonding with fictional characters. Whether it’s in a children’s book or a chapter in a YA or adult novel, there are those characters who — if only real — would be chosen as our BFF.

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

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

And, in this final week, our authors replied:

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

“Eloise. No question.”

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

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

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

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

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

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

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

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

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

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

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

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

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

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

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Lauren Baratz-Logsted and
The Twin’s Daughter, Petal’s Problems

February 07, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

Twins, particularly identical ones, are a story unto themselves and for Lauren Baratz-Logsted (The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness) they became the inspiration of her most recent YA novel, The Twin’s Daughter. As the author explained:

“I love anything to do with twins and I wanted to write a story about a side of the story I’d never seen: that of someone who’s a child of an identical twin.”

The child/teenager is 13 year old Lucy Sexton, who would rather be educated than waste her time doing needlepoint and other proper, “ladylike” activities of England’s Victorian period. And it’s through Lucy’s sensibly curious, yet ultimately horrified mind that readers watch the story unfold.

Synopsis of The Twin’s Daughter:

Lucy Sexton is stunned when her mother’s identical twin sister shows up at the family’s front door one day. Separated at birth, the two sisters have had dramatically different upbringings — and have never known of the other’s existence. Lucy’s mother soon becomes determined to transform her sister Helen into the kind of lady that all of society will admire. And the change in Aunt Helen is indeed remarkable. But is it just Lucy’s imagination, or does Aunt Helen seem to delight in being mistaken for Lucy’s mother….especially where Lucy’s father is concerned? Then one day Lucy is horrified to stumble upon the scene of a brutal murder in her own house. Who is behind the vicious slaying — and who has been left alive?

The murder victim is one of the twins, however which one is it – Lucy’s mother or her aunt? In a December 2010 Red Room blog post, The Twin’s Daughter as it Was, Lauren writes:

“That question – “‘WHICH ONE?'” – drives the rest of the story.”

Of course the author thought she knew “which one” but points out that a major difficulty in writing a suspense novel is not knowing when the reader will figure things out. If the “Aha” moment comes too early, does it spoil the suspense?

Lauren called in outside readers to determine at what point they guessed “which one” and was the story suspenseful? All agreed it was suspenseful and the timing of their “knowing guess” didn’t deter from their reading. The manuscript was fine as it was, nothing had to be changed until the author began thinking, “What if I switched things around so that the ending was now a surprise even to me?”

And that’s exactly what she did, thereby turning The Twin’s Daughter into one of the most puzzling, second guessing mysteries one could ever hope to read!

As a book for all ages, this is more than a thrilling mystery. Lauren Baratz-Logsted shines in portraying Lucy as an adolescent who possesses strength and independence, while still being naive to the details of the world. Readers will watch her grow, mature, fall in love, and face a hard truth that molds the rest of life. She’s a believable character — a great role model — who bravely faces her bittersweet reality and comes to terms with it.

The Twin’s Daughter, complete with its murder mystery, is filled with lessons learned. The Gothic tale has a charm all its own, one that will linger with wonder at how Lauren fooled us all!

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For readers/visitors unfamiliar with the Sisters 8 Series, the presentation/review of Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Marcia’s Madness is the perfect place to fill in the background.

Written by the Logsted family, about a family of eight sisters, Lauren explains what she, Greg, and Jackie wanted to create:

“One thing we have strived to do with The Sisters 8, since all three of us our huge fans of Roald Dahl, we’ve tried to emulate him to the extent that we do the best to make the quirky humor work for readers of all ages in addition to the targeted audience of 6- to 10-year-olds. We hope we have succeeded.”

With the introduction of a new book featuring another sister, every six months or so, The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems was released in October 2010 with this synopsis

Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no. Oh, no! May is almost over and that means only one thing: Petal’s month is about to begin. For most people, this would be a good thing. They would look forward to discovering their gift and their power. But not our dear Petal. As far as Petal is concerned, it could stay May forever.

At least the sisters have some excitement in their future: The wedding of Aunt Martha and Uncle George will bring them, the Petes, and the cats to Paris, where fun—and a little bit of danger—will come as surely as the changing of the month.

Rather than spoil the story, let it simply be noted that Petal is one sister reluctant to receive her “power.” Of course she can’t escape it….ah, yet that’s the story which, according to Kirkus Readers, is filled with “thrills, suspense and hijinks [that] should satisfy adventure-seeking young readers.”

The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems — it’s a must to either begin or add to the Sisters 8 Series!

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. PLEASE indicate which book(s) you prefer. As always, comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, February 9, 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 Lauren Baratz-Logsted on Mixed Emotions

February 01, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[What does an author feel after successfully completing a long-term writing project? In addition to euphoria and relief, there’s usually the question of what’s next? In today’s guest post 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) describes her feelings on writing the final book of the Sisters 8 series — a project that became a personal family affair.]


Last Saturday night, my daughter was away at a sleepover, so my husband and I spent the evening watching a DVD of the making of The Rolling Stones’ Exiles on Main Street album while enjoying some adult beverages. Afterwards, we were still in such a Stones mood, we listened to an iPod shuffle of Stones hits, one of which was “Mixed Emotions.” I did some dancing too, resulting in an injured back, but that’s another story.

“Mixed Emotions,” though – the song got me thinking.

Earlier last week, I completed the first draft of The Sisters 8 Book 9, the series for young readers that I created with my husband and daughter. The series was conceived in December 2006 when a blizzard in Colorado stranded the three of us for 10 days with no TV or other kids in sight. It’s about octuplet girls whose parents go missing one New Year’s Eve, leaving the eight of them to solve the mystery of their parents’ disappearance while keeping the wider world from realizing that eight little girls are home alone. People are always surprised to find out that there are nine books but it’s always made perfect sense to us: one for each sister and a last book to answer all the questions raised along the way.

And now, four years, nine books, 1000+ pages and 200,000+ words later, it’s finished. I’ve had 13 other books published in my career thus far, but this has by far been the longest journey both in time devoted to it and volume.

So how do I feel about the series finally being done?

Well, my emotions are mixed.

There’s happiness at having finished this individual book, just like there’s always happiness when I finish a book.

There’s sadness, because it’s the end of this particular project after living with it for so long, plus I can’t imagine doing anything quite like it ever again.

There’s curiosity about the future, both for me and The Sisters 8.

Mostly, though, right now there’s just relief. For over four years, we’ve strived to make each book even more exciting than the last. The usual experience for young readers with series written for them is one of the same pleasant experience repeated over and over again, like a blueprint for a housing development where everything is the same except minor interior deviations. We tried to do something a little different with The Sisters 8. Rather than a conventional series, it’s more like a cycle, with each adventure building on the one that comes before it. When you write a book, or at least when I write a book, there’s a constant low-grade pressure: Will I be able to go the distance? Will I see it through to the end? And, if and when I get there, will I find when I read it through that I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do? The Sisters 8 series has always presented a particular problem in that regard. For while each individual book along the way felt satisfying when we finished it, this ninth book always loomed. Sure, I felt good when finishing each of the first eight books, but that nagging worry was always there: What if the ninth book, after all this time, failed to deliver in the big way that readers would be expecting? None of the other good would matter if that happened.

But now it’s done, and even though it won’t be in the hands of readers until sometime in 2012, I think they will be pleased. I certainly hope they will be.

People often ask what the highlight has been of working on this series with my family. There have been so many. The biggest single thing is getting to work on it and share it with my daughter – how lucky am I? But a very close second is the responses from young readers. I’ve received my share of fan mail from adults and teens over my career, but there’s nothing like the letters we receive from kids because of their sheer joy and enthusiasm. Not to mention all the parents, grandparents and teachers who write to say, “X hated reading until she discovered The Sisters 8.” And don’t get me started on the girl in Canada who designed her own mystery for us: eight hand-illustrated postcards each with a cryptic message that we had to rearrange to find out what she wanted us to know; or the girls in Massachusetts who created their own board game based on the series.

So what’s next for me?

That’s a question I’d need the mystery-solving abilities of The Sisters 8 to tackle, because today, honestly, I have no idea. My emotions are mixed and the crystal ball isn’t talking.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Caroline Leavitt’s Pictures of You in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Caroline Leavitt and Pictures of You. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, February 2, 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 Further Revealing of Lauren Baratz-Logsted

January 26, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

As one of The Divining Wand’s most prolific authors, Lauren Baratz-Logsted (The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness) was first revealed here on March 31, 2010. Since that was almost a year ago — or four published books later –, it felt definitely time to catch up with this writer and her most recent YA novel The Twin’s Daughter, and middle grade addition The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems. Both were released in early Fall 2010 and received this critical praise:

For The Twin’s Daughter — “Identical twin sisters. Murder. Mistaken identity. Secret tunnel. OF COURSE it’s a Favorite Book Read in 2010.”—Library School Journal

The Sisters Eight Book 6: Petal’s Problems — “Thrills, suspense and hijinks to satisfy adventure-seeking young readers.”– Kirkus Readers

The Divining Wand has scheduled a joint presentation/review of Lauren’s latest releases for Monday, February 7, 2011 but, in the meantime, let’s become reacquainted with the author through her “official” bio:

LAUREN BARATZ-LOGSTED is the author of more than a dozen books for adults and young readers, including The Twin’s Daughter, Crazy Beautiful, and the Sisters 8 series, which she cowrites with her husband and daughter.

And now for the further revealing of Lauren:

Q: What would you choose as the theme song of your life?
A: “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.

Q: Possible pseudonym?
A: JK Rowling. The royalties would be better.

Q: Name three “bests” of being a published author.
A: 1) The actual writing. 2) Having my daughter be proud of me. 3) Fan mail, particularly from little kids.

Q: Favorite book release season of the year?
A: Fall because then I can at least delude myself for a while that “this one might be The Big One.”

Q: If given the opportunity, which reality show would you be on?
A: So You Think You Can Dance? The thing is, I can’t dance, at least not in any way that’s suitable for public consumption, but Nigel and the other judges seem lighter at heart than judges on other shows so I’m sure I’d fit right in.

Q: Favorite childhood fairy tale?
A: Rumpelstiltskin.

Q: What U.S. city would you like to visit that you haven’t been to yet?
A: Atlanta, Georgia.

Q: Your reward after a day of writing?
A: “General Hospital” from 3-4pm and sometimes wine.

Q: What 3 personal qualities are LEAST important to you?
A: Success, wealth, fashion sense.

Q: An author quote that inspires you?
A: “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who only dream at night.” – Edgar Allan Poe

Q: Where do you like to read?
A: Everywhere.

Q: Book or ebook reader?
A; Strictly book, but you never know – sometimes even I change!

Q: Growing up, who was your teen idol?
A: The authors who wrote the books I loved. I was also a big Rolling Stones fan but looking at Mick and Keith now, I’m thinking it’s just as well things didn’t work out for us romantically.

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
A: I’d make myself taller, but only for a day. At 4’11 I’ve always been curious how the other half lives.

Q: Must love dogs and/or cats?
A: Cats. The Sisters 8 features eight cats. I am most definitely a cat person. Have I adequately conveyed that yet?

Q: Which author – past or present – would you have chosen as a mentor?
A: If we’re fantasizing, why not ask for Shakespeare? If I had to select a living author, it’d be Arturo Perez-Reverte. He writes literary thrillers, and sometimes the scenes are violent, but there’s so much sheer joy and intelligence that readers can glimpse in the sensibility behind his books.

Q: What book did you fake reading?
A: HA! I used to fake reading all the time when I was very young, to compete with my older brother and parents who were all very prolific readers, but it’s been decades since I faked reading anything.

Q: What is your favorite scent?
A: Peonies.

Q: What is your favorite movie adaptation of a novel?
A: To Kill a Mockingbird.

Q: Two books you always give or recommend, knowing they’ll be loved?
A: Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; When You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead.

Q: What are five of your favorite things?
A: Since you said “things” I’m going to assume you mean that literally so I’ll leave people off my list. Hmm…five of my favorites… Good books, good wine, TV, anything with shrimp, and my furry blanket on the couch in the living room.

In addition to being an imaginative and talented author, Lauren is extremely knowledgeable of the book world in general. To keep up with her isights, follow the author on Twitter, and become a friend on Facebook!

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Linda Gray Sexton’s Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Linda Gray Sexton and Half in Love: Surviving the Legacy of Suicide. 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.

Lauren Baratz-Logsted and The Education of Bet

July 19, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the Front Flap

The young man looking back at me was handsome
and gave off an air of self-confidence.

There was just one problem; two, actually.

The barely discernible bulge in the front of
the trousers had been created by a carefully balled-
up pair of stockings.

And the young gentleman–I–was a girl.

Imagine, that “young man” describing what s/he sees reflected in a mirror is the 16-year old young woman on The Education of Bet book cover! Yes this is the latest YA novel by Lauren Baratz-Logsted (Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness, The Twin’s Daughter YA coming August 31, 2010) released last week. As the author’s first historical fiction writing for teens, it’s witty, charming, funny and showcases a character determined to succeed in achieving what she wants most. And, given Bet’s background and the time period of the Victorian era, her desire for an education was an almost impossible dream.

Several reviewers have felt that Yentl was the book’s inspiration but, when asked, Lauren says:

“The funny part is…I’ve never even seen Yentl! Nor have I read the Isaac Bashevis Singer story that the film is based on. What I have read, and what was the inspiration for Bet, is the Tom Hughes classic Tom Brown’s Schooldays. I’ve loved that book, about British boarding school life in the 1800s, since I first read it in college. I wanted to explore what it would be like to be a teenage girl who desperately wants a particular kind of education. Could girls go to school in Victorian England? Sure. But could the dead maid’s orphan 16-year-old daughter ever get that kind of education? Never. Not unless she took drastic steps to achieve her own dream. So why choose to write historical fiction? I’ve made that decision three times: with the adult novel Vertigo; with Bet; and with the forthcoming YA novel The Twin’s Daughter. Each time it’s been because the story demands it. Emma Smith’s story only works in Vertigo because of the social conventions of the time and lack of forensic science. Lack of forensic science is also crucial for The Twin’s Daughter. And The Education of Bet requires a time and place where a girl like Bet would be denied the thing she wants most. Why specifically Victorian England? I just love that time period.”

Her love for England, wit, and moody romance were all able to be explored, along with the Masterpiece Theater influences of great clothes too. So, despite the fact that the story could have been set in contemporary times in a country where women still lack rights, the author concedes that the seriocomic storyline of Bet would be missing.

Here’s the synopsis:

When Will and Bet were four, tragic circumstances brought them to the same house, to be raised by a wealthy gentleman as brother and sister. Now sixteen, they’ve both enjoyed a privileged upbringing thus far. But not all is well in their household. Because she’s a girl, Bet’s world is contained within the walls of their grand home, her education limited to the rudiments of reading, writing, arithmetic, and sewing. Will’s world is much larger. He is allowed—forced, in his case—to go to school. Neither is happy.

So Bet comes up with a plan and persuades Will to give it a try: They’ll switch places. She’ll go to school as Will. Will can live as he chooses. But once Bet gets to school, she soon realizes living as a boy is going to be much more difficult than she imagined.

TRUST: Lauren Baratz-Logsted has created a true delight by giving the reader a feisty, bright yet naive Bet whose education comes from more than books. At the Betterman Academy, she learns that a girl in a boy’s world holds more than academic challenges. Faced to deal with bullies, compulsory sports, dances, and the never imagined “falling in love” with your roommate scenario, Bet maintains her optimistic spirit and solid moral values.

Whether “acting” as a boy or a girl, she is special. An incredible role model for contemporary teens, this character will warm your heart while making you smile because everything about her rings true. The Education of Bet is not a morality tale, instead it’s an enlightening glimpse back at what used to be and, perhaps, how much young adults now take for granted. Better yet this novel of substance is simply fun and — again — oh so charming.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Education of Bet in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, July 21, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winner to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to possibly claim your book.

What If….Maud Carol Markson and Lauren Baratz-Logsted?

July 14, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

What a day — or more — for a daydream in the summer heat of July. In fact it feels like the perfect time to wonder “what if” The Divining Wand possessed magical powers and could grant authors, who create their own magic with “what if,” the following two questions:

Based only on their writing, what author would you want to be?


If given the opportunity to have written ONE book in your lifetime, what would that title be?

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

“I don’t know what author I would want to be because I can’t help but think about their “‘real'” lives. My father always taught me that “‘the grass is probably greener on my own lawn regardless to how it looks from my side of the fence.'” However, I truly love Anne Tyler and if I could write just one of her novels, I would feel blessed. As for the one book– I would love to have written To Kill A Mockingbird! But Harper Lee only wrote one book– I am sure that was difficult for her.

~ Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent The Education of Bet YA, Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series Book 5: Marcia’s Madness):

“Arturo Perez-Reverte. He’s a terrific writer and it’s always so clear he’s having fun.”

“The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald.”

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