The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

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.”

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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.


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.

Presenting Debutante Tawna Fenske
and Making Waves

June 20, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

By her own admission it took Debutante Tawna Fenske a while to find her literary voice (see Finding Where You Fit Is Harder Than It Looks) but — once she discovered that her humor and love of romance combined perfectly together — it was full sail ahead for her debut novel, Making Waves, available August 1, 2011.

The result is a delightful, warm-hearted, endearingly twisted tale of romance and adventure, complete with hijinks….though the goal was a hijack. Yes it’s sexy but in a classy, sophisticated way. In fact Tawna’s first book is reminiscent of the classic romantic comedy movies — with an added dash of spice and lust — to satisfy true blue romance readers.

Although the idea of writing a quirky, updated version of the traditional pirate-themed romances was inspired by a sailing trip off the Queensland coast of Australia, the author says:

“It wasn’t until the economy hit the skids and a lot of people started losing jobs that the pieces of the story started to come together in my mind. I started mulling the crazy extremes someone might go to after being kicked to the curb by an unscrupulous boss. Under what circumstances might it be OK – even funny – to set out on a pirate mission to reclaim your pension, your life, and your dignity?”

Staying on course, the storyline evolved into the following synopsis:

A high-seas heist wasn’t part on their unemployment plan

There are normal ways to cope with job loss, and most don’t involve plotting a revenge-fueled diamond heist in the Caribbean with a crew more suited to the boardroom than the poop deck.

But Alex Bradshaw isn’t feeling very normal when his unscrupulous boss kicks him to the curb after 20 faithful years as an executive with the world’s largest shipping company. Alex wants payback, and maybe a chance to reclaim his dignity and his pension while he’s at it. Assembling a team of fellow corporate castoffs, he sails to the Caribbean to intercept the boss’s illegal diamond shipment. None of them counted on a quirky blonde stowaway with a perplexing array of talents, a few big secrets, and an intoxicating romantic chemistry with Alex.

And while Juli Flynn certainly didn’t plan to be a part of the most dysfunctional high seas caper in history, it’s a rare chance for her to feel like she belongs. She’s spent a lifetime being “different” from everyone else, though the reasons for that are something she’d prefer not to share with her newfound shipmates. Juli just wants to be normal for a change, but as she finds her place with the misfit crew – and in Alex’s heart – she discovers normal isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. And sometimes, being weird can be wonderful.

Now meet both Juli as well as Alex and his “pirates” in this Excerpt: Chapter One.

Juli’s “weirdness” is brilliant and certain to keep readers guessing, while Alex’s human imperfections make him genuine and lovable. Both have their secrets and issues with trust but Cody, Jake, and Phyllis — former fellow co-workers turned pirate crew members — don’t bother to conceal their obvious quirks. Stereotypical characters? Not even close. And perhaps the most refreshing factor is the maturity of each individual. Ranging in age from thirty-seven to fifty-four, they all have lived just as they are….honestly (though not meant to be) funny.

The ability to write humor is Tawna’s natural gift. She credits that talent to having been born into a family where everyone has a ridiculously good sense of humor, much better than hers. In fact it took her agent to adamantly urge the author to stick with humor by saying: “You make it look easy, but it’s something very few people can do well.”

Although the book is enormously entertaining, it conveys a strong message — accepting and following one’s heart — and The Divining Wand asked Tawna how she was able to balance the two elements?

“My number one objective is to entertain, but if I didn’t have some sort of message, the book would just be one long string of cheap jokes. I won’t claim I started out with some big moral message to convey, but you’re right that Making Waves centers around the importance of marching to the beat of your own drummer (something my mother has accused me of doing my whole life). When my agent and editor and I sat down to brainstorm marketing “‘hooks'” that would sum up the type of books I write, we settled on the line, “‘normal may be nice, but weird is wonderful.'” That line appears on the cover of Making Waves, and it’s at the center of all three of my contracted romantic comedies.

In other words this novel has heart, offering romance on a realistic level. The plot twists with some steamy scenes that put things into place, then veers off in an unexpected turn that changes everything. It’s situational comedy at its best because the author has a sense of direction for the storyline but doesn’t outline, explaining:

“I don’t tend to write in a very linear fashion, which means I’m constantly going back to earlier chapters to weave in details I’ve figured out along the way. There’s a fairly big plot twist near the end of the book. I honestly had no idea the twist was coming until I started writing the scene and thought, “‘oooh, that would be good!'” Then I had to go back through all the earlier chapters and work that thread into the rest of the story.”

And that is only one example of how Making Waves stays real, romantic, and seriously funny. Having already confessed (in a previous book presentation/review) to not being a love story fan, this Fairy Godmother adored the novel and, again, claims that it has to be the classiest romantic read around.

Tawna Fenske’s Making Waves debuts on August 1st so, if you want the ultimate beach read, please consider Pre-ordering now. Then you’ll be among the first to cast off on a high seas adventure where romance and fun become wonderfully weird…enjoy!

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

Guest Tawna Fenske on
Finding Where You Fit Is Harder Than It Looks

June 14, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[Good writing requires more than the ability to write a good story. In fact more often than not it’s the author’s voice and/or personal choice of genre that attracts and sustains a reader’s attention. As a writer-by-trade, Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011) knew this and — in today’s guest post — she shares the journey of discovering her author’s niche.]

Finding Where You Fit Is Harder Than It Looks

I’ve been blogging at The Debutante Ball since last August, so I guess you could say I’ve become a familiar voice there.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about my early forays into fiction writing and how it took me awhile to figure out romantic comedy was where I fit best.

Based on commenters’ reactions, I might as well have confessed it took me 36 years to discover I had toes. How could I not know I should be writing humor?

Hey, I never claimed to be the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Yes, I’ve been the class clown since I was old enough to string sentences together. Sure, I’m always the one to break up boring meetings by making sex jokes. OK, I’ll admit I could probably find the humor in a funeral if I tried hard enough.

But it really didn’t dawn on me in the early days that I could use that to build a writing career.

I’ve always written for my supper, but in a much different capacity than what I’m doing now with novels. I caught the journalism bug in high school, and used my experience as editor of the school newspaper to land college scholarships, work my way up to editor of the college paper, and to eventually find post-college work as a newspaper reporter.

Once the appeal of long hours and lousy pay wore off, I moved on to tech writing before transitioning to a career in marketing and public relations.

All of those jobs involved writing. A lot of it, in fact. But none involved making stuff up.

That’s probably why it was such a funny feeling the first time I sat down to take a stab at fiction writing in 2002. I kept checking over my shoulder, certain the word police were going to come and arrest me for lying.

In a way, I was disappointed that never happened. I really looked forward to those handcuffs.

Though the first novel I wrote was a romance, it was barely recognizable as such. Because I’d grown so accustomed to doing vast amounts of research in the writing I did for my day job, that’s what I did for the novel, too. Looking back, that book probably could have had footnotes.

Nothing says “sexy romance” like a bibliography.

Fortunately, my first couple stabs at writing fiction weren’t read by many people who weren’t either family members or drinking buddies (or both – hi, Dad!)

But my third book did sell.

I know we’re classifying Making Waves is my debut novel, and it’s true it will be my first published book. However, it’s technically not the first book I ever sold for publication. That honor goes to a book called Avalanche. I wrote it for a line of women’s action/adventure/romance novels published by Harlequin/Silhouette several years ago under the Bombshell label.

I sold the book, spent the advance check, and had already written two follow-up novels that hadn’t yet made it to contract when my editor called on my 32nd birthday to tell me the line was being cancelled one month before my scheduled debut.

This was also the same day my cat died. Oh, and the same day my employer said they’d fire me within a week if I continued to disobey the company’s hosiery policy (I did. They didn’t).

At some point near the end of that day when I walked out onto my back deck with a glass of wine in my hand, I thought, “this is really pretty damn funny if you think about it. What are the odds of all of this happening on the same day?”

I won’t say that was an epiphany, per se, but I will tell you that within a few days I sat down and began writing something new. Something different. Something funny. Something that screamed, “if I can laugh on a day like that, I can find the humor in damn near anything!”

And though that book didn’t actually sell, it did land me an amazing agent, who eventually landed me a three-book deal for my romantic comedies.

So that’s the roundabout route I took to find my voice. Do I wish it had been quicker? Absolutely! Was it worth it for the experience I gained? I think so. Does the slowness of my journey to finding my voice indicate I need professional help and perhaps a tutor?

Don’t answer that.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Populazzi by Elise Allen in a random drawing of comments left only on this specific post, Presenting Debutante Elise Allen and Populazzi. Comments left on other posts during the week will not be eligible. The deadline is Wednesday, June 15, 2011 at 7:00 p.m. EDT with the winners to be announced here in Thursday’s post. If you enter, please return Thursday to see if you’re a winner.

The Revealing of Tawna Fenske

June 08, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Considering Tawna Fenske’s diverse background and double entendre humor, it’s not unexpected that her debut novel — Making Waves being released on August 1, 2011 — would prove a guilty reading pleasure.

For Making Waves is the first in a trio of quirky romantic comedies from Sourcebooks, Inc. with the second book, Believe it or Not due out January 2012, followed by Let It Breathe in August 2012.

In a one sentence descriptive tease of Making Waves, it’s noted:
A high-seas heist wasn’t part of their unemployment plan.

Last week at Book Expo America 2011 Advanced Reader Copies of the novel were made available for reviewers and publishers. Although that technically means reviews are not yet available….Trisha Leigh, a YA writer and longtime Twitter pal of Tawna’s, did provide this high praise after literally snagging a BEA display copy:

trishaleighKC Trisha Leigh
@tawnafenske “Man. I REALLY want to read that one.” She ran off & came back with one. I’m 35pgs in and fanning myself 😉 25 May

Translation: It’s HOT in more ways than one!

The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of Making Waves for Monday, June 20, 2011 however, in the meantime, let’s meet the author through her “official” bio:

A third-generation Oregonian who can peel and eat a banana with her toes, Tawna Fenske has traveled a winding career path from journalist to English teacher in Venezuela to marketing geek. She’s the author of the popular daily blog “Don’t Pet Me, I’m Writing” and a member of Romance Writers of America. Her debut novel, MAKING WAVES, hits shelves August 2011 as the first in a trio of quirky romantic comedies from Sourcebooks, Inc.

Now it’s time to really get to know Tawna, upclose and revealing:

Q: How would you describe your life in 8 words?
A: I can always find a reason to laugh.

Q: What is your motto or maxim?
A: Don’t take life – or yourself – too seriously.

Q: How would you describe perfect happiness?
A: This is a family-friendly blog, right? I’m a romance author. I think it’s best if I don’t answer this question.

Q: What’s your greatest fear?
A: I am absolutely, positively petrified of needles. That’s not entirely true – I can handle things like shots or piercings, but I can’t handle blood draws or IVs. I guess it’s more accurate to say I have some sort of weird vascular phobia. I’ve been known to hyperventilate, throw up, pee, scream obscenities, and throw punches when faced with a blood draw. It’s possible I’ve done all of those things simultaneously.

Q: If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?
A: On a warm, sandy beach with a cabana boy rubbing me with suntan oil and another cabana boy feeding me bites of fresh pineapple.

Q: With whom in history do you most identify?
A: I don’t know about “identifying,” since I’m not vain enough to imply that I have anything in common with the genius of Lucille Ball, but I certainly admire everything she did to pave the way for women in comedy.

Q: Which living person do you most admire?
A: Is it cheating if I name my parents? They’re sort of one person anyway. My parents met in sixth grade and have been ridiculously, deliriously in love for over four decades. There’s no better inspiration for romance novels than that.

Q; What are your most overused words or phrases
A: In writing, I seem to have characters who do a lot of eyebrow raising and sighing. I have to go back and search each manuscript to make sure I haven’t overdone it. In real life, I’m not sure I have any overused words or phrases, but I certainly do laugh a lot.

Q: If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?
A: I would like to learn to juggle, play the harmonica, and parallel park without cursing. It would be even cooler if I could do all three things at once.

Q: What is your greatest achievement?
A: Learning to tie a cherry stem in a knot with my tongue.

Q: What’s your greatest flaw?
A: I’m too easily distracted. While trying to come up with a clever answer for this question, I managed to check my email four times, refill my ice water, text message a dirty joke to a friend, and clean an eye-booger off the cat’s face.

Q: What’s your best quality?
A: If we’re talking physical attributes, I’ve been told I have a nice smile. Well, that’s probably not the part of me that generates the most comments, but that’s the one I’m admitting in this interview. If we’re talking personality traits, it’s probably my ability to make people laugh. I’ve always been something of a class clown, so it’s probably good I write romantic comedy instead of tragic literary fiction.

Q: What do you regret most?
A: I don’t tend to regret much in life. Even the really dumb things I’ve done (and there have been plenty) generally turn out to be good learning experiences.

Q: If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?
A: The mirror in the men’s locker room at Daniel Craig’s gym.

Q: What trait is most noticeable about you?
A: I’ve been told I talk too fast. And walk too fast. And do a lot of things too fast.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional hero?
A: Besides writing romantic comedy, I also love reading it. Jennifer Crusie is one of my favorites, and I’ll admit I’m madly in love with Phin Tucker from Welcome to Temptation.

Q: Who is your favorite fictional villain?
A: Author Chelsea Cain (a fellow Oregonian) writes a terrific series of thrillers starring female serial killer Gretchen Lowell. The books are so beautifully twisted, and Gretchen divinely disturbing.

Q: If you could meet any athlete, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?
A: I grew up in a family of sports nuts, so you’d think I could manage to come up with the name of a single famous athlete. Nope. I’m drawing a blank here. I lack the attention span to watch sports, and I lack the athletic prowess to participate in them.

Q: What is your biggest pet peeve?
Grouchy, moody, whiny, or mean people. Is that one peeve or four?

Q: What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?
A: I’ve worked in marketing/public relations for most of my adult life, which essentially means I’m a professional cheerleader. I currently work part-time as the communications manager for the tourism bureau of the most amazing town on the planet, Bend, Oregon. I get paid to do things like go snowshoeing or beer tasting or mountain biking and write about it, or take journalists out for swanky dinners and walking tours of the city. I love my job. I’d probably do it even if they didn’t pay me.

Q: What’s your fantasy profession?
A: I’ve always wanted to write product descriptions for adult catalogs. You’re sorry you asked now, aren’t you?

Q: What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?
A: Sense of humor, empathy, and a nice butt.

Q: If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?
A: I should preface this by saying friends tease me for being a neurotically healthy eater 99% of the time, but there is no food on earth I love more than the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin.

Q: What are your 5 favorite songs?
A: This changes weekly, but at the moment:
“Highway Song,” by What Bird
“The Last Resort,” by The Eagles
“Private Universe,” by Crowded House
“Sex on Fire,” by Kings of Leon
“This is Where,” by the Wailin’ Jennys

Q: What are your 5 favorite books of all time?
A: Yet another list that changes regularly, but some staples:
Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver
Welcome to Temptation by Jennifer Crusie
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut
The Gospel Accord.

ing to Sydney Welles by Susi Rajah

Smart, savvy, and honestly sweet, Tawna Fenske has the ability to brighten anyone’s day. Visit her blog, Don’t Pet Me, I’m Writing, follow her on Twitter, and friend her on Facebook.

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

Favorite Fictional Worlds, II

May 12, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

Once again thanks to Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters) who responded earlier this year with an alternative answer for her fictional BFF. Since Eleanor’s “twist” was simply too good (and intriguing) to pass up, TDW asked its other authors her question:

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

This week the following writers replied:

~Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“I would love to inhabit the very distinct world of the Manning clan and all the generations and their many offspring in Arkansas and Mississippi that Ellen Gilchrist has created over the span of eleven short story collections, seven novels and four books of poetry. Her writing gave me the courage to become a better writer. The world she has created in her prolific career is more magical and mysterious to me than anything I have ever read, and I return to her work when I am stuck in my own, and when I want to escape.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011):

“I’m looking out the window at a spring snowstorm right now, so every fictional setting I’m imagining is set in a warm, tropical locale. Actually, this was the best part of writing my debut novel, MAKING WAVES. The book is set mostly in the Caribbean, either on a ship or an island. Having the opportunity to imagine myself in these sunny spots kept me feeling warm and tingly the whole time I wrote it. OK, setting might not have been the only thing making me warm and tingly.”

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

“I’d love to live in the 1920’s world of Anna Godbersen’s BRING YOUNG THINGS. Gold Coast mansions! Bootleggers! Speakeasies! Flapper clothing!”

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

“I’m afraid I’ve come up short with this question, I must read too many depressing books.”

~Judy Merrill Larsen (All the Numbers):

“Well, the first one that come to mind would have to be Maycomb, Alabama. I’d play with Scout and Jem, we’d try to sneak a Boo sighting, and on hot days we’d relax with lemonade and Miss Maudie’s Lane cake while waiting for Atticus to come home. But there would also be such sadness. And lessons to be learned. All that growing up to do. But, it’s a place I’ve returned to often through the years. I’d also like to wander in the 100 Acre Wood with Christopher Robin and Pooh. Both of these places are so vivid in my memory . . . it’s like I really lived there. Which, I suppose I did.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

“I don’t have a need to stay too long, but I think I’d enjoy a year at Hogwarts. I’d like to learn some spells and receive my mail by way of Owl Post.”

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

“I’d enjoy spending some time in the post-war London that Clarissa Dalloway inhabits in Mrs. Dalloway. Alternatively (or in different moods) I’d like to check out the Colorado plains of Plainsong and any of the small Canadian towns from an Alice Munro story.”

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

“As a child, I wanted to live in Narnia. As an adult, I still wouldn’t mind slipping between the pages of any one of my favorite childhood books–especially The Secret Garden, A Wrinkle In Time or any one of The Chronicles of Narnia.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Ok, so I’m a dork. It’s not entirely fictional, or perhaps, not fictional at all, but I would love to live in Henry James’s New York City. Man, those mansions, need I say more. I used to walk past many of the building he describes, which are now hidden behind the heinous commercialism that is Manhattan. I’d much prefer to see them back when.”

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

“Oh, I want to live in West Egg, next door to Gatsby’s mansion, on the other side from Nick Carraway. The decadence! The glamour!”

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

“I used to think I’d like to live in the older novels I read, so I could wear fancy gowns all the time, but I’ve since come to realize that both gowns and the way of life that went with them were awfully restricting. Now I think I’d enjoy a visit to Harry Potter’s world, with its wands and magical candies and flying around on brooms, but not until after all the killing’s over.”

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

“Well, my answer to this question is a no-brainer for me–but maybe it’s because I had a light lunch today. I would love to land in the world of Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’d pack a straw and hang out near the chocolate river, for sure.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of Laura Dave’s The First Husband is Mary Quackenbush. Congratulations!

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

Go-to Writing Books, IV

April 14, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

Before, during and after a work-in-progress, a published/debut author has likely read more than a few books on the art and craft of writing. Whether it’s for motivation or inspiration, favorites must exist to be read and reread — including fiction and poetry — whenever the need arises. With this thought in mind, The Divining Wand asked its authors:

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

And this week the following authors replied:

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

“Anne LaMott’s Bird by Bird. That always can motivate me.”

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

“I always keep the previous book in my series close by to make sure that I’m not writing something inconsistent in the new book. It’s sometimes hard to keep all the characters (and all their idiosyncrasies straight).”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011):

“I am desperately in love with books by romantic comedy goddesses Jennifer Crusie, Lani Diane Rich, Janet Evanovich, and Kristan Higgins. I wouldn’t mind having any of those authors’ careers someday, but for now I will settle for stalking them and reading their books over and over.”

~Kate Ledger (Remedies):

‘As I was writing REMEDIES, at least for one stretch, the books nearby were Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Saul Bellow’s Seize the Day, Philip Roth’s American Pastoral–all of which struck me as a certain kind of writing: muscular and assertive and also straightforward. Some mornings, when I first sat down, I would dip into one of them, reread a small section, and remind myself that the key to it all is telling the story. And then I would get to work.”

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

“There are a few novels I re-read or dip into as a reminder of great writing, including Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux, especially for voice, anything by Rosellen Brown to reacquaint myself fusing character and story, Margot Livesy for the elegance of her prose, and Steven King for a reminder of page-turning plot.”

~Kim Stagliano (All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism):

“Strunk & White.”

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

“I have 21 (!) books on my desk that are necessary guides as I work through my current project. These books aren’t craft-related; they’re specific to this manuscript. The books I’ve used most this week: Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails with America ’s Hoboes by Ted Conover, and Hopping Freight Trains in America by Duffy Littlejohn.”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winner of The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry is Sara Mitchell. 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, III

March 03, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles, Q&A

At times a book offers a surprise bonus — those special characters that create an immediate personal bond and, 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:

~Eleanor Brown (The Weird Sisters):

“Less than specific people, there are entire fictional worlds I’d like to live in – the dramatic romance of Diana Gabaldon’s Scotland in Outlander, the rebuilding of America in Stephen King’s The Stand, the wild sadness of the Greasers in S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, the sweeping epic future of Atlanta in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind. Each of my favorite books is populated with amazing characters who live in a world too delicious to pluck just one of them from.”

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves coming August 2011):

“I would probably choose Fred the dog from Jennifer Crusie’s ANYONE BUT YOU. I think he’d get along nicely with my menagerie of pets (two dogs, three cats) and his fondness for stealing lingerie could help me find my bras when they go missing.”

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

‘Ask me on a different day and I might have a different answer, but the character who comes to mind today is Linda Voss, the protagonist and narrator in Susan Isaac’s wonderful novel Shining Through. Linda’s funny and genuine and smart and loyal–and when you need her to, she’ll tell it like it is. Who doesn’t want a friend like that?”/

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

“I would like to be friends with most of the characters in Elin Hilderbrand’s novels. She *really* nails certain things about marriage, children, families in a way I very much admire.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“Hal Incandenza from David Foster Wallace’s “‘Infinite Jest.'” I’m not sure Hal and I would get along so well now, but I’m sure we would have been best friends as teenagers. It takes one truly athletic nerd to appreciate another.”

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

“I would love to hang out for eternity with Jo March of Little Women. To me, Jo is the quintessential early feminist and, dang, she’s just so full of life and personality. Who else would say no to Laurie?”

To be continued….

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Announcement: The winners of Confessions of a Rebel Debutante by Anna Fields are Gayle Lin and Tiffany D.. Congratulations!

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

Writing Rituals, Secrets, and Superstitions, V

February 10, 2011 By: larramiefg Category: Profiles, Q&A

Yes or no? 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?

This week provides the final responses, including one from new TDW author Catherine McKenzie:

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

“Never underestimate the power of a nap, particularly with the television on. The weird midday dreams that sneak in can be very inspiring. And if nothing comes, at least you are well rested.”

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

It’s “show and tell” on video.

~Tawna Fenske (Making Waves debuting August 2011, Believe It or Not in January 2012, and Let It Breathe August 2012):

“Chianti. Sangiovese. Sometimes Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay.”

~Beth Hoffman (Saving CeeCee Honeycutt):

“I go for a walk in the woods.”

~ Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I have all three. First, because I am inspired by my grandfather, Joseph McGrath, especially since on his deathbed I promised if he’d help me from the “’other side,’” I would dedicate everything I write to him. He was a writer and a coach. At the start of each day, I touch his old IBM Selectric for good writing when I begin. When I begin, I always close my eyes, imagine him there, and then start. For when I am really stuck, I keep his old sweater in my office. I will wrap it around my neck on those occasions where slogging through mud in cement shoes is easier than writing.”

~Catherine McKenzie (Arranged, Spin):

“Nope. I use many things depending on the day. A certain song. A certain place. And to crib from James Frey: When all else fails, I turn to Dylan. And when Dylan fails, I call it a day.”

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

“At one time I would have found this infuriating advice but the one thing that always, no matter what, always works, is writing. Sometimes I take a break from the project I’m working on to do something different, such as write a letter to a favorite teacher or an ode to caramel. I remind myself that playing with words is fun, that writing is fun. Writing something – anything! – helps jolt anything loose that has me hung up: doubts, that evil internal editor, or just a thorny plot snafu.”

~Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“I stare at my bookshelves.”

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

“I’m not the least bit superstitious about my writing, but I have been known to switch from the keyboard to writing longhand on paper when I’m really stuck. Not so much a secret or a ritual, but it’s a little trick that jumpstarts a sluggish brain somehow.”

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

“I have no secrets or superstitions, but I do drink green tea whenever I write, and I generally write with my feet propped up on my desk.”

~Kim Stagliano (All I Can Handle: I’m No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters with Autism):

“I prefer to write on an old laptop while propped up on pillows on my bed.”

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

“I change my surroundings–go from my office to a coffee shop, say–and switch from the computer to pen and paper.”

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

“Yes, to never, ever talk about my secret rituals. Just kidding. I don’t really have any—unless lucky pencils count. For The Last Will of Moira Leahy, I used a whole box of natural pencils by Focus (#2s, of course). For my current project, I’ve been using angular soft-to-the-touch pencils by Dixon . When I feel stuck in my manuscript, I almost always transition to pencil and paper to work through the problem.”

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Announcement: The winners of Lauren Baratz-Logsted’s The Twin’s Daughter are EJ Knapp and Heather. And the winner of the Sisters 8 Series, including Petal’s Problems is Megan. Congratulations!

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

Best Writing Exercises, Part I

October 07, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles

Whether it’s to warm-up, jumpstart, or let their imaginations wander, many of our authors/friends use a writing exercise. Being interested in what works for them, The Divining Wand asked: What have been some of the best writing exercises you’ve used in your writing process?

The following replies lead off with Tawna Fenske, a 2011 Class Member of The Debutante Ball:

Tawna Fenske (Making Waves debuting August 2011, Believe It or Not in January 2012, and Let It Breathe August 2012):

“I’m a big fan of #1k1hr. That’s the official hashtag for those of you on Twitter, but tweeting isn’t a requirement for participation. I was introduced to the idea by author Patrick Alan, who explains it like this: “The object is simple. Sit down and write until you have one thousand words and one hour has passed. You have to accomplish both. The challenge isn’t to write 1,000 words in an hour. It’s to write for at least an hour and at least 1,000 words.”

I love this concept because it forces a writer to switch off his or her internal editor. It’s fast and furious and very rewarding for such a small investment of time. I enjoy the motivation of the challenge, particularly if I’m playing with other authors under the #1k1hr hashtag on Twitter. Most importantly, it’s a good way to get words on the page. They won’t always be good words — in fact, some of what I’ve written playing #1k1hr is truly awful. But you can’t edit a blank page, so it’s a good way to nail down a starting point with something I can edit later

You can read more about #1k1hr here.”

Allie Larkin (Stay):

“STAY started as a writing exercise in a college class. We had a sheet with two columns of words, and were asked to take a word from column A and one from column B. We had to make a sentence with them – A is a B. My sentence was “Separation is a battle.” We wrote for 3 minutes, using that line as the first sentence. Later in the semester, we had to revise one exercise three different ways, changing something major like point of view, tense, or setting. By the third round of revisions, I’d found my main character.
I still do writing exercises when I’m looking for new ideas. Often, I’ll take a song lyric – something short enough to not be too specific – and use it as my first sentence. Then, I free-write for a set amount of time. And, I still love going back and revising my exercises by rewriting them from a different point of view or tense. It’s easier to play with those things in order to find the right character and the right time and place when the idea is new and messy and there are so many different directions it could go in.”

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“I don’t really use exercises, but I tend to write and write and write excess background, excess scenes, stuff that I know will fall on the cutting room floor. This helps me know my characters better. I also try to rewrite scenes from another character’s perspective if something doesn’t feel right.”

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

“Writing from the point of view of a character whose point of view I’m not using in the actual manuscript.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“In Robert McKee’s book on the craft of writing, STORY, he talks a lot about the “controlling idea.” What is it that your characters are struggling over throughout the course of the book? In the story I’m working on now, the controlling idea is that hope—no matter how foolish—can lead you to a better future. The opposite force at work is death of hope. McKee asks us to play out those contrasting forces, using each to create tension, back and forth, throughout the scenes and chapters, so that the reader is never entirely comfortable, never really sure what’s going to happen next. That’s an extremely simplified explanation of the controlling idea, though; to fully understand it, I recommend reading McKee’s book.”

To be continued.

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Announcement: The winners of Good Enough to Eat by Stacey Ballis are Janel and Wendy Kinsey. Congratulations!

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