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Summer’s TBR Lists, V

June 23, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

Thank goodness for summer and its lazy, hazy days of being carried away by a book. Reaching out to discover what our authors/friends would be reading, The Divining Wand asked them:

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

And, in this final wrap-up post, the following writers replied:

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

“The next book I can’t wait to get my hands on is Allen Zadoff’s My Life, The Theater, and Other Tragedies. I recently finished his Food, Girls, and Other Things I Can’t Have, and I adored it. He also has a memoir coming out called “Hungry” that I’m… well… hungry to read.

“Big picture though, I have to admit that the book looming over my future doesn’t come out until October: Rick Riordan’s Son of Neptune. My daughter and I devoured every book in the Percy Jackson series so far (and let’s be honest, the “new” series is not a new series — it’s a wonderful continuation of the same series), and we’ve been counting down the months until the next installment. Four more months to go!!!!”

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, some books by Sue Miller, whom I’ve never read, The Local News by Miriam Gershow, Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2, 2011):

“My reading tastes vary widely, but there’s something about summertime that makes me want to read something fun, frothy, and sexy. The book club I’ve belonged to for 10+ years even makes a special effort to read at least one “summer smut” offering during the warm months. I adore author Victoria Dahl’s sexy, funny contemporary romances and look forward to her string of new releases starting in September. I’m also looking forward to attending Romance Writers of America (RWA) Nationals in June/July so I can scope out all the upcoming releases!”

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

“The moment I can I plan to read Meg Wolitzer’s new book: THE UNCOUPLING. Also, on my catch-up list is CLEOPATRA by Stacy Schiff, MALCOLM X: A LIFE OF REINVENTION by Manning Marable, FAITH: A NOVEL, by Jennifer Haighand SO MUCH FOR THAT by Lionel Shriver. Hmm…I better get some beach books in here.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Hmmm….so very much.

Barry Hannah’s “Long, Last, Happy”
TC Boyle’s “When the Killing’s Done”
I also want to read “The Pale King” this summer by David Foster Wallace

And I’m also planning to reread the four Sherlock Holmes novellas.”

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

“I have so many books that I’m looking forward to – Elin Hilderbrand’s Silver Girl, Laura Dave’s The First Husband, Courtney Sullivan’s Maine, Gwendolen Gross’s The Orphan Sister, Meg Mitchell Moore’s The Arrivals…it feels like there’s an amazing wealth of smart writing for women these days, and it’s all culminating this summer. There’s also Diana Spechler’s Skinny, which I read an advance copy of, and truly adored.”

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

“SO many. My little “‘check out this book'” notebook is full of great sounding books that I can’t wait to laze around with this summer. One in particular: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness.”

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

“Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and Year of the Flood, some books by Sue Miller, whom I’ve never read, The Local News by Miriam Gershow, Pictures of You by Caroline Leavitt, The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer.”

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

“I’m looking forward to reading “Bossypants” by Tina Fey who I think is one of the sharpest writers around these days. Also “French Lessons” a new novel from Ellen Sussman that I think comes out this July.”

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Making Waves by Tawna Fenske are Julie Mann, Charlene Ross, and Monica B.W.. 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.

AND

Announcement: The winners of A Pug’s Tale by Alison Pace are Sunny and Jane Cook. Congratulations!

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

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.”

* * * * *

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.

Go-to Writing Books, II

March 31, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

Before, during and after a work-in-progress, a published/debut author has likely read more than a few books on the art and craft of writing. Whether it’s for motivation or inspiration, favorites must exist to be read and reread 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:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“While I admire so many great writers whose books grace the shelves in my office, I cannot read or refer to fiction while I am deep into my own fictional world. As a matter of fact I have an occupational short attention span for reading anything while I am writing. Instead I would say I use visual stimulus. I find the works of the photographer Sally Mann, Tina Barney, Diane Arbus, the paintings of Alice Neel, Lucien Freud and John Currin, among many, many others to be so inspiring. For me, looking at these works is actually a different kind of “fiction” there are so many stories hidden in the pictures.”

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

“The Forest for the Trees” by Betsy Lerner
“Coaching the Artist Within” by Eric Maisel
“Self-Editing for Fiction Writers” by Browne & King (no relation)
“Bird by Bird” by Anne Lamott

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

“I re-read Jane Austen at least once a year. The Harry Potter series too. If I need something gently, I might re-read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books or the Anne of Green Gables books. I wouldn’t say I go back to them necessarily, they are just constantly in my life.”

~Camille Noe Pagan (The Art of Forgetting coming June 9, 2011):

“For general writing advice and inspiration, I love Stephen King’s “On Writing”. To see how smart humor can be done right, I go to Lorrie Moore’s short stories (“Like Life” is a favorite). But the one book I return to again and again–both when I’m writing and when I’m not–is Barbara Kingsolver’s “Prodigal Summer”. For me, it’s the whole package: great dialogue, amazing description and, most importantly, a wonderful story with the perfect blend of tragedy and triumph.”

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

“I constantly reread four on the craft of writing: Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott; On Writing by Stephen King; Making A Literary Life by Carolyn See; Escaping Into The Open by Elizabeth Berg. I love craft books. Not so much for the exercises or how-to, but for the comfort, the yes, this is hard.”

~Wendy Tokunaga (Midori By Moonlight, Love in Translation):

“Since I’ve been busy doing teaching and manuscript consulting, I’m tending to have a lot of craft-of-writing books on my desk, which are always helpful to consult, whether it’s for my students, clients or myself. Some of my recent favorites are: “Hooked” by Les Edgerton, “The Modern Library’s Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction” by Stephen Koch, “The Making of a Story” by Alice LaPlante and the classic “bird by bird” by Anne Lamott.”

To be continued….

* * * * *

Announcement: Happy Debut Day to Lori Roy and Bent Road!

AND

With a major thank you to Rebecca Rasmussen’s publisher, Crown, there are now two copies of The Bird Sisters for the Giveaway. The winners are Jennifer Gravely and Hira H. (Enamored Soul). Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and one book will be sent out promptly, while the other book will be Pre-ordered for its release on Tuesday, April 12th.

Fictional Characters as Best Friends Forever

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

One of the most enlightening aspects of reading is being introduced, getting to know, and gaining insight/understanding to a wide variety of individuals. Somewhere among the pages are also those special characters that create an immediate personal bond — the ones, 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 this week’s authors replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I’d like to spend time with Holden Caulfield; I’ve always found the dark, moody boys to be endlessly fascinating to have as friends, but never date.”

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

“I think I could be good friends with Davie Jones in 32 Candles because we’re both nerdy weirdos, and we’d make each other laugh.

The three adult sisters in Ugly Ways by Tina McElroy Andrews because they love books as much as I and I just love them so and can relate to them so.

I’d also like to be friends with Sally Owens from Practical Magic because I’ve always loved witches and I’d love to have a friend who could cook up something to make a bad man disappear.

Oh Myraleen and Lilian in This Side of the Sky because they have the type of lifelong friendship that is very rare these days, and Lilian is smart and Myraleen is funny.

Also, all these women have mother issues and I can relate!”

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

“I think I can name a few. Love Bridget Jones and Kate Reddy (I Don’t Know How She Does It). Partly because they have a fabulous British accent and I would love to have a friend that said “bullocks” everything I said something ridiculous. I love how flawed and good they are. Nobody knows flawed like I do. Hermione Granger has such a good head on her shoulders, I think she could help me with punctuation and I could consult in ways of the heart. While being her BFF would be very difficult I know, Olive Kitterage speaks to me so strongly. I think she could tell me to get-over-my-self better than any one and I could hug her until she settled down.”

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

“Maybe Louisa May Alcott’s Jo March. I just love her spunk and spirit, but especially her principles and loyalty! Something tells me that if she were living here in the present day, we’d have a ton of fun!”

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

“Jay Gatsby. I think we could throw some really wild parties!”

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

“The bff of my dreams has always been my beloved Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. True-blue, smart, and all that imagination.”

~Emily Winslow (The Whole World)

“Today? Mog the Forgetful Cat. I’m in the mood for playfulness and feline cuddles.” 🙂

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Sarah Pekkanen’s Skipping a Beat are Jennifer B and Stacy. Congratulations!

Please email diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and your book will be pre-ordered for next Tuesday’s release date.

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….

* * * * *

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.

From: Readers/Friends
To: TDW Authors/Friends

Holiday Greetings!

December 22, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Reader's Holiday Greetings


[During this Season of giving and sharing, The Divining Wand’s readers would like to thank their authors/friends for this past year and wish them Holiday Greetings. The next few weeks will feature universal as well as personal nods to writers who share with us throughout the year. Happy Holidays!]

Seasoned Greetings to Melissa Senate
–author of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School!

Dear Melissa,

After devouring your delicious new novel, and inhaling each and every ingredient of your recipes, (that I’ll never be able to recreate, but a girl can dream, can’t she?) I wanted to share my favorite winter cookies–that I believe earn me invites to holiday parties.

Ginger Krinkle Cookies

As I dug out the brown sugar-stained recipe card my mom typed out on an old Olivetti typewriter hundreds of batches ago, I realize I start baking with a happy memory. I love making Ginger Krinkles almost as much as eating them! Almost.

2/3 Cup vegetable oil 2 tsp. baking soda
1 Cup granulated sugar 1/2 tsp. salt
1 egg 1 tsp. cinnamon
4 Tablespoons Molasses 1 tsp. ginger
2 Cups flour additional 1/2 cup granulated sugar for dipping

Mix oil and sugar, add egg and beat. Stir in molasses. Sift dry ingredients together and add to mixture. Drop spoonful of dough into sugar and form balls. Bake at 350 degrees on ungreased cookie sheet for 10-15 minutes.

Enjoy!

Dee DeTarsio

From: Readers/Friends
To: TDW Authors/Friends

Holiday Greetings!

December 16, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Reader's Holiday Greetings


[During this Season of giving and sharing, The Divining Wand’s readers would like to thank their authors/friends for this past year and wish them Holiday Greetings. The next few weeks will feature universal as well as personal nods to writers who share with us throughout the year. Happy Holidays!]

AN ODE OF TO OUR COOKING AUTHORS
AND A RECIPE FOR CHOCOLATE BOURBAN PECAN PIE

By Suzanne Anderson

My love of cooking and books about cooking probably stems from my earliest memory of reading MFK Fisher’s Gastronomical Me, back when I was in my early twenties.

My pleasure in cooking grew when I moved to New York City and lived just a few blocks from the Union Square Farmer’s Market, a place that I looked forward to exploring every Saturday morning. It was there that I discovered lobster bisque delivered each week by a man from Maine. This lobster bisque became the inspiration for one of the best evenings I’ve ever spent with my father, a five hour odyssey in the kitchen with three lobster tails, and four cookbooks, and our attempt to recreate the taste of the lobster bisque I’d discovered in New York.

All of which is to explain why I always perk up when Larramie features a cooking themed novel on The Divining Wand. I know that I will not only find a book that combines my two great loves, cooking and reading, but chances are great that in the author who wrote the book, I will find a kindred spirit, one who knows the joy that can be created in the kitchen to nourish the souls of those we love.

I want to thank Stacey Ballis for writing GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT

I want to thank Jenny Nelson for writing GEORGIA’S KITCHEN

I want to thank Melissa Senate for writing THE LOVE GODDESS’ COOKING SCHOOL

I want to thank Jenny Gardiner for writing SLIM TO NONE

I want to thank Alicia Bessette for writing SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH

And I want to especially thank Keetha DePriest Mosely for writing and publishing CULINARY KUDZE: RECOLLECTIONS & RECIPES FROM GROWING UP SOUTHERN and MORE CULINARY KUDZU: RECOLLECTIONS AND RECIPES FROM GROWING UP SOUTHERN.

Since this is a cyber celebration of the wonderful authors we’ve met on The Divining Wand, allow me to bring the pie.

Not just any pie. My famous Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie, which I’ve made five times in the past month to share with friends and family. Actually this recipe was originally adapted from a recipe I found on Allrecipes.com for Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie submitted by Anital.

Here’s my version:

Ingredients

1 (9 inch) deep dish frozen pie shell
1 cup white sugar
1 cup rice syrup – I use this in place of Karo syrup because the flavor is milder
1/2 cup butter
4 large or extra large eggs, beaten
1/4 cup bourbon
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1 cup (or more) chopped pecans

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees F).
2. In a small saucepan gently heat butter, rice syrup, and sugar, stirring constantly until the butter melts and the sugar dissolves. Cool slightly before adding to other ingredients, so you don’t end up with scrambled eggs.
3. In a large bowl beat together the eggs, bourbon, vanilla, and salt. Slowly add the sugar mixture into egg mixture, starting with one spoonful at a time to temper the mixture and avoid cooking the eggs. Whisk until well combined.
4. Toss chocolate chunks and pecans in the bottom of the pie shell. Pour egg/sugar mixture into pie shell to cover pecans and chocolate chunks…don’t worry, as the pie cooks, the pecans will float to the top and magically arrange themselves in a beautiful pattern on the surface of the pie.
5. Bake in preheated oven for 60 minutes, or until set and golden. May be served warm or chilled.
Cook’s note: I’ve also melted the chocolate into the sugar mixture at the start of the recipe. Both methods work well.

Merry Christmas Divining Wand authors and readers…..and here’s to a New Year of many more great discoveries on THE DIVINING WAND!

And a special holiday thanks to Larramie, TDW’s tireless creator!

Best Writing Exercises, Part IV

November 11, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Q&A

As promised, The Divining Wand delivers yet another installment of what inspires or motivates our favorite authors/friends to perfect their natural skills, by asking the question: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

Also this post welcomes and introduces another new author, Ann Werrtz Garvin!

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

“I wish I could remember what book I read it in, but I once advised to try drawing your story as a way to come at it from a new angle. I was stuck in my story trying to figure out why certain plot points hadn’t jelled. I wrote Lydia McKenzie’s name (my main character) in the middle of a giant piece of paper and then drew lines to all the minor characters names like some kind of flow chart. I then wrote a few words above the line about their relationship. I realized that I wanted her to have multifaceted relationships with the other people in the story, and drawing it out like that helped me see where I could make my story and relationships stronger and more complex.”

Claire Cook (Seven Year Switch, Must Love Dogs, Life’s A Beach, and the rest in Bibliography, and Best Staged Plans coming May 31, 2011):

“I’m not a big writing exercise person. I just pour all my energy into the book I’m working on. But once, I just couldn’t get the ending of a novel right, so I sat on the floor of my office and just kept pulling books of the shelves. I read the last page of book after book, thinking, “‘Okay, this is what a good ending feels like. And this. And this. And this.'” And finally my ending popped into my head! It was nothing like any of the endings I’d just read, but they definitely led me to it!”

Ann Wertz Garvin (On Maggie’s Watch):

“I like to take a phrase that strikes me as interesting or funny–something I’ve seen on a bumper sticker or heard in conversation–and figure out what is funny about it and what it relates to. Often, I can’t put my finger on it right away. So I do a stream of consciousness kind of thing. I’ll work on it like I’m whittling a log or playing cats cradle. I take a bit here, move it over there, make associations, until I figure out what I like about it. I find my subconscious is so much smarter than my conscious mind. Like it’s playing with my awareness, seeing if I can figure out the puzzle. When I do, I get a little cerebral pat and everything shuts down for an afternoon nap.”

Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“The best exercises, hands down, have been working with all the plot tools outlined in BlockBuster Plots by Martha Alderson. I used her tools for my first novel, this included plotting the book, discovering all facets of my characters, and tracking the scene progressions. I am using the tools again for my second novel, which is in progress. I highly recommend her process. It not only helps you focus your plot, but it also helps for when you get stuck.”

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

“One of my favorite inspirational books says that if you seek clarity about something, some burning question, you should sleep on it for three nights and you’ll wake up on the fourth day with the answer. I know this isn’t really a writing exercise, but it’s my best way of working through plot and characterization problems, rough spots, and corners I’ve backed myself into. My other favorite is to just ask my character what she really wants more than anything else, heart, mind and soul–and what she’s most afraid of.”

To be continued…..

* * * * *

Announcement: The winner of Chosen by Chandra Hofffman is Mavis. Congratulations!

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

Melissa Senate and
The Love Goddess’ Cooking School

October 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books


From the book’s front cover:
There’s no recipe to
follow when it comes
to love. . . .

Bestselling author Melissa Senate (The Secret of Joy, The Mosts YA, the rest in Bibliography) will have her latest book, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, released next Tuesday, October 26, 2010, and its title alone is certain to categorize it as a romance novel. However, in the author’s guest post — Motherhood, Julia Child, and “please can I have a mouse, rat, hamster or rabbit” made a cook out of me –, Melissa reveals that the idea for the book came from having her 6 year old son cooking (and wishing) beside her. Romantic? Actually this novel can best be described as a multi-generational, universal love story of discovering where one belongs in the world.

Selected as an Indie Next List Notable for November, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School first and foremost explores how deeply one’s past affects their present. Often taken for granted, Melissa explains how much her heritage means to her and the novel:

“A big part of the inspiration for Camilla, Holly’s grandmother, was my own grandmother, who died several years ago. I spent many weekends of my childhood in her tiny Queens, New York, apartment, in the kitchen, where I found she did most of her talking. She didn’t love talking about herself, but I was so interested in her not-so-easy early life on Manhattan’s Lower East Side and her two marriages and I got an earful at the sink while scrubbing potatoes. I have this vivid memory of her funeral, of standing at the grave and holding my then toddler son in my arms, and something about that incredible stretch of generations stuck with me. What can your grandmother’s long life teach you about yourself, teach you want to want to know? How does your grandmother’s and your mother’s life affect who you are, your path? I had a lot of questions and found myself poking at that in all the family relationships in the book.”

As those questions were answered, the tale evolved into the following synopsis:

Camilla’s Cucinotta: Italian Cooking Classes. Fresh take-home pastas & sauces daily. Benvenuti! (Welcome!)

Holly Maguire’s grandmother Camilla was the Love Goddess of Blue Crab Island, Maine—a Milanese fortune-teller who could predict the right man for you, and whose Italian cooking was rumored to save marriages. Holly has been waiting years for her unlikely fortune: her true love will like sa cordula, an unappetizing old-world delicacy. But Holly can’t make a decent marinara sauce, let alone sa cordula. Maybe that’s why the man she hopes to marry breaks her heart. So when Holly inherits Camilla’s Cucinotta, she’s determined to forget about fortunes and love and become an Italian cooking teacher worthy of her grandmother’s legacy.

But Holly’s four students are seeking much more than how to make Camilla’s chicken alla Milanese. Simon, a single father, hopes to cook his way back into his daughter’s heart. Juliet, Holly’s childhood friend, hides a painful secret. Tamara, a serial dater, can’t find the love she longs for. And twelve-year-old Mia thinks learning to cook will stop her dad, Liam, from marrying his phony lasagna-queen girlfriend. As the class gathers each week, adding Camilla’s essential ingredients of wishes and memories in every pot and pan, unexpected friendships and romances are formed—and tested. Especially when Holly falls hard for Liam . . . and learns a thing or two about finding her own recipe for happiness.

Also Simon and Schuster offers a taste sampling of The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by providing an Excerpt: Chapter 1.

Although the novel may initially feel reminiscent of other chick lit books about a single young woman trying to find Mr. Right, it’s not. Instead — and in addition to the already mentioned issues that comprise the storyline — the romance is adult, mature, and complicated. For example, male characters with a past of failed marriages, divorce and shared parenthood are realistically showcased, juggling what’s best for their daughters as well as for themselves. Yes, here the children come first and that’s very important as Melissa says:

“The relationship between parent and daughter is such a huge part of the book, from Liam’s and Simon’s relationship as single fathers with their young daughters, to Tamara’s relationship as single woman with an overbearing mother, to Holly’s with her mother, and her mother with her grandmother, and Juliet’s with her grief. I’ve found I like to explore the effect of loss and divorce—and I like to write about fathers, single or otherwise, who’d go to the ends of the earth for their kids.”

Yet even caring, sensitive parents cannot protect their children from “mean girls” and bullying that range as far back to affect Holly’s mother. For the author will agree that what the novel is truly about is pressure. No matter what one’s age or whether it’s peer or family pressure, the consequences of pressure need to be confronted and dealt with.

Of course The Love Goddess’ Cooking School is also a most savory read filled with romance, pasta, and chicken alla Milanese. But, while spending months perfecting the recipes for the cooking class scenes, the author thought about what would make Holly feel like she belonged in her own life. Was it her own self-identity or other people’s expectations and acceptance?

With insightful clarity, Melissa found that the answer came down to having enough inner strength to hold one’s own against outside pressure, as she says:

“The character of Camilla, Holly’s grandmother, didn’t belong, and yet she made herself belong whether anyone liked it or not. I wanted to explore that strength. And I wanted Holly to find it for herself. I wanted everyone to find it. Then you get to choose; you get to decide.”

TRUTH: Sign-up for The Love Goddess’ Cooking School by pre-ordering or purchasing the book next week Tuesday and you’ll discover the best recipe for life and love is entirely up to the real you.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Melissa Senate’s The Love Goddess’ Cooking School 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, October 20, 2010 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 Melissa Senate on Motherhood, Julia Child, and “please can I have a mouse, rat, hamster, or rabbit” made a cook out of me

October 12, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Melissa Senate’s (The Secret of Joy, The Mosts YA, the rest in Bibliography) latest novel, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, releases in two weeks on October 26, 2010. Another Trending: food book? The answer is yes and no. In today’s guest post, the author reveals her inspiration for the book….a pinch of this, a wish of that sifted and stirred into immeasurable love.]

Motherhood, Julia Child, and “please can I have a mouse, rat, hamster or rabbit” made a cook out of me

The epigraph of my new novel, The Love Goddess’ Cooking School (pub date: 10/26) comes from Julia Child: “I was thirty-two when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” I came across this quote by the legendary chef a long time ago and it stuck with me–and gave me hope. Until my son came along when I was thirty-six, I wasn’t much of a cook 1) because anything I did attempt to make came out awful and b) because it was “just me.” My typical dinner in those “just me” days? A knish with a squirt of mustard from a street vendor on the way home from work. A bowl of Apple Cinnamon Cheerios in cold milk. If I made anything in my tiny kitchen in my Manhattan studio apartment, it was an omelet. Any other attempts: #foodfail. I love food, all kinds, all ethnicities, particularly Mexican and Indian and Italian, but even my how-can-you-mess up chicken and cheese quesadillas were something not to behold—or eat. Pasta, no matter how simple the recipe, was always overcooked or undercooked. And my ambitious attempts at my beloved chana masala? Inedible.

So I was happy enough with my knishes and omelets and ate out a lot. But when my dear son Max was born, I knew I had six months to get my act together (in that lovely space when babies eat liquid food only). I bought How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman and learned how to make the basics. My toddler food—from chicken fingers to meatloaf—wasn’t half bad. By the time Max was two and we moved to Maine, to a kitchen that you could actually turn around in, Max began asking to cook with me. Cracking the eggs for scrambled eggs and brownies. Laying chicken cutlets in breadcrumbs. The concentration on his little face, his happiness at being with me in the kitchen, and his pride at not sloshing eggs out of the bowl made me realize what had been missing from my time in the kitchen all those years: a sense of fun, of caring deeply what I was doing, of wonder at the very process of cooking. Before I began cooking with my son, cooking was about the end result. Now it was about much more.

A few days before his sixth birthday, Max was cracking eggs into a bowl for his beloved bacon frittatas, and as he began working on his gentle beating technique, he said into the bowl: “Please let Mommy say yes to getting me a mouse, rat, hamster or rabbit for my birthday.” Beat, beat. “Please, please, please. I really want a rat but I’ll take any of them.” Then he added in the pinch of salt and made his wish again.

And the idea for The Love Goddess’ Cooking School, about a neophyte chef whose cooking class, with its special recipes that call for adding wishes and memories into every pot and pan, changes the lives of its teacher and students, was born. Right in my very own Tuscan-inspired kitchen in a small town in Maine.

P.S. Max did get his wish, two little fancy pet rats he named Jeffrey and Timmy.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Richard Hine’s Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Richard Hine and Russell Wiley Is Out to Lunch. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, October 13, 2010 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.