The Divining Wand

Discovering authors beyond their pages…

What If….Emily Winslow, Tish Cohen,
Eve Brown-Waite?

July 06, 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?

~ Emily Winslow (The Whole World):

“I like Ruth Rendell’s career longevity and vivid characters. I’d love to look back at the end of my career and see a stack of books like hers!”

The Secret History was my favorite book for years. I have no idea if it would still be my favorite if I re-read it now; I read it while an undergraduate myself, so it was a case of perfect timing. But I would love to write something so iconic.”

~ Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue):

“Elizabeth Strout.” “Olive Kittridge.”

~ Eve Brown-Waite (First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How A Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and A Third World Adventure Changed My Life):

“Amy Tan because she’s such an incredible writer. Or Anne Lamott because she writes just the kinds of books I want to write.”

“FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA – because I am quite certain that was the book I was always meant to write. And if I never get a chance to write another book, I’ll always be content that I at least got to write that one.”

* * * * *

What Better Season for Turning These Pages

July 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Books in Review

On March 4, 2010 The Divining Wand’s post presented, Our Authors’ Spring/Summer Book Releases. Now, at the July 4th mid-summer break, let’s review those books you may have missed and belong in your TBR tote bag.


Presenting Debutante Sarah Pekkanen and The Opposite of Me

Jenny Gardiner and Winging It


Kristy Kiernan and Between Friends

Holly LeCraw and The Swimming Pool

Matthew Quick and SORTA LIKE A ROCK STAR


Lauren Baratz-Logsted and Marcia’s Madness

Meredith Cole and Dead in the Water

Presenting Debutante Joëlle Anthony and Restoring Harmony

Barrie Summy and I So Don’t Do Makeup

Presenting Debutante Emily Wiinslow and The Whole World


Allison Winn Scotch and The One That I Want

Tish Cohen and The Truth About Delilah Blue

Allie Larkin and Stay

Carey Goldbergy, Beth Jones, and Pamela Ferdinand with Three Wishes

Trish Ryan and A Maze of Grace

Robin Antalek and The Summer We Fell Apart

Of course there are more books to come, including Alicia Bessette’s Simply from Scratch debuting on August 5th and Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars) second novel The Life You’ve Imagined releasing August 17th. Yet for a lazy, hazy holiday break, there’s more than enough great reading here. Enjoy!

* * * * *

Announcement: The winners of Robin Antalek’s The Summer We Fell Apart are Keetha and Jenny.

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

Tish Cohen and The Truth About Delilah Blue

June 07, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Book Presentations, Books

From the book’s front cover:

“A beautifully written, finely wrought, race-to-the-end novel about finding your family,
finding a life and finding yourself. Tish Cohen is the next great thing in women’s fiction.”
__Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of
The One That I Want and Time of My Life

The multi-talented, insightful Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA) offers readers a coming-of-age, coming-to terms book tomorrow — June 8, 2010 –, with her third adult novel, The Truth About Delilah Blue. It’s true that the title character is only twenty, yet how many individuals, of any age, suddenly learn and must attempt to maturely cope with the fact that they were once a child on a milk carton deemed MISSING?

Although that alone would be an amazing “what if” for a storyline, it was not the basic idea for The Truth. Rather the inspiration came from the author’s father’s back surgery as explained in the December 1, 2009 blog post, The Truth About Delilah Blue:

“I’m very excited about my next book for adults, I wrote it over a period of about two years and it was inspired, but has nothing to do with, by my father’s back surgery. My single father lives out in California, my youngest brother lives in Vancouver and my sister, other brother and I live in the northeast. So when Dad announced he needed someone to care for him for two weeks post-op, it was no simple feat to decide who could up and go. Turned out Michael, the youngest, was able to transport his work down south and be there for our dad. We were never going to leave Dad to himself, if it hadn’t been Michael, my sister or I would have pulled our kids out of school and hopped on a plane.

Our dad is lucky, he has four kids who care, but the experience got me thinking: what happens when the aging parent had wronged his children or child in the past? How would that child react when the parent is vulnerable and a reversal of roles becomes real? So here was the seed for a story. All I needed to do was think up a paternal act that could not only be proven later in my heroine’s life, but would be irrevocable, unspeakable, and unforgivable.

This one terrible act, a dozen years in the past, became the basis for THE TRUTH ABOUT DELILAH BLUE.” Please read more.

Tish’s post then evolved into the following synopsis:

What if you woke up one day to learn that you were a child on a milk carton?

Lila Mack, formerly known as Delilah Blue Lovett, has always felt like an outsider ever since she moved from the gingerbread community of Cabbagetown, Toronto to Los Angeles with her father when she was eight-years-old. Now twenty and still struggling to find her way in life, she longs to become an artist like her long-lost mother, but unable to pay for classes she does something quite daring. She takes a job as an art model, posing nude for a classroom full of students so she can learn from the professor—a decision that lifts the veil of her once insular world.

Anxiety over exposing her body is the least of Lila’s worries when her father starts to become disoriented and forgetful, signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s. At the same time, her mother re-enters the scene, bringing secrets about the past that will change their lives. Suddenly, nearly everything Lila knows about herself is a lie, and she has no idea who to trust—her free-spirited mother whom she always believed abandoned the family, or her adoring father, who has begun his descent into senility and is either unable or unwilling to give her answers. Lila realizes neither parent is what he/she seems and the only one she can really rely on is the most broken person of all—herself.

The Truth About Delilah Blue showcases Cohen’s talent for finding the humor and heart in the most dysfunctional of families as she tackles the subject of parental abduction and the themes of abandonment, trust, healing and forgiveness.

Anyone who has read Town House, Inside Out Girl, or even Little Black Lies knows Tish’s affinity for creating quirky, problematic-to-society, main characters and shaping them into unique, believable individuals, deserving of respect and understanding. However, in this novel, the author allows Delilah to be the stronger, more put-together one who must deal with quirky, dysfunctional parents and friends. It’s not that Delilah Blue lacks insecurities, confusion about her own identity, and definite trust issues. Of course she does. But, in knowing the main character intimately, her mix of optimism, pessimism, and indecision make perfect sense. So much so that I did not read the Uncorrected Proof sent by Harper Perennial, instead I inhabited Delilah Blue and discovered the truth when she did.

Indeed Tish Cohen tells the story THAT personally, realizing it was what she had to do:

“To have the guts to look to my past, my childhood, for what unsettles me most. What really scares me. Because this emotion is exactly what my new book needs.”

Exposing such raw emotions could have made this story dark, instead it is brave and realistically glorious. After reading the post, Guest Tish Cohen on Honest Choices, one knows that the author would not permit anything less from herself or Delilah.

The Truth About Delilah Blue is exactly as Allison Winn Scotch describes it…and more. For this novel is a captivating “must read” about true self-discovery, acceptance and moving forward.

Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away two copies of Tish Cohen’s The Truth About Delilah Blue 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, June 9, 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.

Guest Tish Cohen on Honest Choices

June 01, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Guest Posts

[In today’s guest post the always lovely and ever prolific Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA) talks honestly about the choices she made to get where she is…. Her third adult novel, The Truth About Delilah Blue, will be released next Tuesday, June 8, 2010 and The Divining Wand has scheduled a presentation/review of the book next Monday, June 7, 2010.

And now, without further ado, here’s Tish.]

During my childhood, not many days passed during which I was without a pencil, a crayon, a magic marker, or a pen. If you’d asked me back then what I wanted to be when I grew up, I’d likely have replied, “an artist.” Okay, full disclosure, if you’d asked me before age five, I’d have said, “a collie.” And there were a few summers I might have said farmer or figure skater or owner of shiny horses or a ballet dancer with really muscular calves. But mostly I saw my future self as either a cartoonist or an eccentric painter who splashes color across enormous canvases on the floor of her weathered barn—much like Delilah in THE TRUTH ABOUT DELILAH BLUE, my newest novel for adults.

I was a loner of a kid, so books were a huge part of my life, but rather than contemplate writing them (that was for special people), I simply became each heroine and spent my days wishing I was her, then pulled out another sheet of paper and drew Snoopy in yet another position atop his dog house.

The day I knew I was on the wrong track came early and I ignored it. I’d finished a rendition of Snoopy that made me so proud I drew a fancy frame around it in black marker. I sat there, on the floor of my closet, and knew to my toes that what I was good at, art-wise, was not creating art of my own, but copying the work of other artists and taping it to my bedroom walls. As I sat there knowing this, I knew something else. That I was supposed to write a story about what I’d drawn—and THAT was my real path. This I knew much further than my toes. I knew this to the basement. To the ground beneath the basement.

Yet I ignored it. That day and for the next eighteen years.

I did pursue art after a wrong turn for business school, and did wind up with a fairly successful painting business where I painted dusk skies with clouds and swallows in people’s dressing rooms, and frescoes in front entryways. I was reasonably good at what I did, but to become the artist who sold canvases in galleries I would have to be better than reasonably good.

And I wasn’t.

I was working as an editor by this time, and already knew I loved playing with words as much as I loved playing with graphite and plaster and acrylic paint. There was a point where I reached a split in the road. I knew I had to choose. I made a list of the pros and cons of each career and imagined myself at ninety-nine, sitting in my rocker, looking back upon my life. Which life made me happier?

I didn’t know.

It wasn’t until I tried writing fiction for the first time (until that point my writing had been for a third-world development agency, or in the form of autobiographical essays I’d sold to newspapers) that I knew. Fiction not only made me happiest, it came to me more easily than art. It came to me as my own creation, rather than a something that had been done before and I could only replicate. I thought about this as I wrote THE TRUTH ABOUT DELILAH BLUE. Delilah is rabid in her passion for painting, willing to model nude, even, to fund her choice. And even as this decision ruins life as she knows it, it is a thing she must do.

I learned back then the importance of honesty in my choices. It wasn’t until I took a good look at myself that I found a career that liked me back.

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Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of Allison Winn Scotch’s The One That I Want in a random drawing to anyone who comments only on this specific post, Allison Winn Scotch and The One That I Want. Comments left on other posts during the week are not entered into the contest. The deadline is Wednesday, June 2, 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.

The Facts and Factors of A Novel’s Word Count, I

April 22, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Q&A

A recent question posted on The Divining Wand’s Q & A page sounded simple enough and an overwhelming number of authors responded to answer:

Here’s another question for your authors: What is the word count of most of their novels?

I know that we here all sorts of estimates of what a novel should be, 70,000 to 100,000 words. But what is the actual count for the novels featured here, and do your authors think about word count as they’re writing?

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“Great question (I can’t wait to see all the answers). My latest manuscript Swimming Lessons is 75,656. But some of mine go up 10 109,000. the shortest was 65,000 or so.”

Emily Winslow (The Whole World coming May 25, 2010):

“THE WHOLE WORLD was about 80k when I submitted it, and about 90k after editing. (I know for most writers, editing involves taking away. I write sparely, and am more likely to add scenes in editing.) I’m very conscious of word count as I write. I generally break it down to a certain number of words for each chapter, and sometimes even scene. I don’t force conforming to that goal, but it helps me keep a sense of proportion as I craft the whole.”

Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver, Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me):

“I’d say for commercial fiction around 90K words is good. Used to be they wanted lots of words but with publication costs, etc, over the past few years it’s been downsized–in fact something w/ 100K words or more would definitely give an editor/agent pause.

“I’m not sure about YA fiction but I’m thinking 45 – 60K (I’m sure YA authors can tell you more precisely).”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA ):

“My biggest advice for word count is to write your book and then when it is done figure out where you are in terms of word count. My two YA novels (What Would Emma Do? and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood) have been around 65k words. My adult title, Unpredictable was just under 80k words and the middle grade I am writing now will come in at about 27k words.

“The only thought I give to word count when I’m writing is measuring my progress. I have set weekly word count goals based on a rough idea of the estimated length of the book, otherwise I ignore word count until I’m done.”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“Word count “requirements” (I use the term loosely because there are always exceptions) vary by genre. I write mainstream/women’s fiction, aiming, as I write, for about 100k-115k words–which, if I’ve done my job, means I’ll have produced a layered, complex story with subplots in place. My first drafts tend to be pretty complete, but not every writer works that way. Some like to put down a fast “sketch” and then go back in to fill things out. I’m not saying that my first drafts don’t need a fair amount of revision, just that the word count doesn’t change dramatically from one draft to the next.”

Alicia Bessettte (Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010):

“I’m very word-count oriented, thanks to my magazine/newspaper background. Whenever I get a freelance assignment, my first question is, How many words?

“As I wrote Simply From Scratch, I stayed conscious of my goal of 80,000 words, give or take 5,000. My agent later told me 80,000 words is the perfect length for upmarket women’s fiction.

“A previous, unpublished fantasy novel I wrote was less than 60,000 words, and several agents told me that was far too short for the adult fantasy genre. Each genre seems to have what is generally considered an ideal length. But then again, there are notable exceptions. The Harry Potter books are often singled out as exceptions, because they’re longer than average children’s books.

“I’m curious to know whether other novelists keep word count in mind as they write, or if it’s more of an editing goal.”

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

“My word count for Orange Mint and Honey was something like 76,000 and for Children of the Water 81,000. I absolutely think about word count as I’m writing. It’s definitely helpful. One way it’s helpful is if parts of the book that should carry a lot of weight are much briefer than other parts. Or if you have more than one POV character that should have equal weight in the story, are their word counts about the same? ”

Robert Gregory Browne (Kill Her Again, etc. and Down Among the Dead Men coming May 25, 2010):

“My typical word count is about 100,000 to 125,000 words. And yes, I do think about word count because I’m contractually obligated to turn in a book at that length. Word count differs, however, depending on the editor and how he or she actually counts the words. Some still use the old method of 250 words a page, while others rely on computer count, which seems to be the trend these days. I consider this less accurate because it doesn’t take into consideration the space on each page, the way old method does.”

Meg Waite Clayton (The Wednesday Sisters):

“The Wednesday Sisters is about 93,000 words. And yes, it’s something I keep an eye on. When I was writing the first draft of my new one, The Four Ms. Bradwells (Ballantine, March 2011), I celebrated the halfway point at 40,000 words. At 80,000 I began to panic as the end was nowhere in site. At 120,000… And the complete first draft was 140,000 – yikes! My contract with Random House contemplates a novel of approximately 100,000 words. The final version – just put into production last week – is a bit longer than that, but closer far closer to it than to 140,000. I like to think I shoot for 80,000 words, although obviously I miss the mark on a regular basis.”

Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue coming June 8, 2010):

“I never think about word count. Nor have I had a single editor bring it up. The Truth About Delilah Blue likely runs about 90,000 words or about 450 book pages– the longest of my books so far.”

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

“I write YA, and my first book was about 68,000, which seems to put me just on the longer side. My next book will be a few thousand words more. Some authors don’t think about wordcount at all, but I use it to gauge my progress and make sure I’m getting enough work done–typically on a first draft, I shoot for 2,000 words a day (and come out at about 1200-1600 most days).”

Robin Antalek (The Summer We Fell Apart):

“Word count is one of those things that is in the back of my mind — but not something I’m aware of until the manuscript is finished and my computer gives me the number. The Summer We Fell Apart comes in at 115,103 words give or take and that final word count was based upon when I thought the novel was done — not some magic number I thought I needed to reach. When I was writing more short stories and submitting them — I was more aware of not exceeding a certain number since some journal requirements are fairly specific — and I have a tendency to cram a novel’s worth of information into a short story. Writing novels gave me the luxury of writing long and I suppose, given my word count on Summer, you could say I embraced it.”

To be continued…

Our Authors’ Spring/Summer Book Releases

March 04, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Advance News, Books

Have you heard, new books are coming? That’s been my refrain throughout the winter but it’s only the truth. And the new releases begin appearing next Tuesday when Sarah Pekkanen (hmm, ever heard of her?) debuts with The Opposite of Me.

Rather than tell of all the others, let me show you what will soon be in bookstores as well as here on The Divining Wand.

March 9, 2010:
Sarah Pekkanen debuts with The Opposite of Me

March 16, 2010:
Jenny Gardiner (Sleeping with Ward Cleaver) launches her memoir, Winging It: Twenty Years of Caring for a Vengeful Bird Determined to Kill Me.WIT

April 6, 2010:
Kristy Kiernan (Catching Genius, Matters of Faith) gifts us with her third novel, Between Friends.BFsm

Holly LeCraw debuts with The Swimming Pool.TSWMPs

May 3, 2010:Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series) adds to the SISTERS 8 with with Book 5: Marcia’s Madness.MAMAD

May 11, 2010:
Meredith Cole (Posed for Murder) gives us more chills with her second mystery, Dead in the Water.DItWsm

Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky) has yet another detective case for preteens with I So Don’t Do Makeup Ages 9 – 12.ISODDMAKE

May 13, 2010:
Joëlle Anthony debuts with Restoring Harmony YA.RESHAR

May 25, 2010:

Emily Winslow debuts with The Whole World.TWHWORLDsm

Thaisa Frank (A Brief History in Camouflage, Sleeping in Velvet) offers a gem with Heiddegger’s Glasses.HEIDGLAS

June 1, 2010:
Allison Winn Scotch (The Department of Lost and Found, Time of My Life) assures us that her third novel is The One That I Want.TOTIWsm

June 8, 2010:
TRUDELBLUTish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA) tells The Truth About Delilah Blue.

June 22, 2010:
Trish Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Love, and Happily Ever After) shares more of her life with A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances.AMAZEGRACE

July 12, 2010:
Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series with Book 5: Marcia’s Madness) returns to YA with The Education of Bet.TEDoB

August 5, 2010:
Alicia Bessette debuts with Simply from Scratch.SIMSCR

August 17, 2010:
Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars) promises another “a la Anne Tyler” novel with The Life You’ve Imagined.

All of these authors will be revealed and their books presented, in addition to a few surprises. Remember, it begins this Monday with The Opposite of Me!

[Note: This information will be archived on the Debuts page.]

Our Authors’ Favorite Love Stories, II

February 23, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites

Although pre-empted by yesterday’s Olympic post, here is the continuation of our authors’ favorite love stories.

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

“My favorite love story is ‘”Pride & Prejudice.”‘ Nobody can do it like Jane Austen! And one of the great things about loving that book is that there are umpteen movie versions to choose from when you need a girls’ day on the couch with some popcorn and a glass of wine! (The audiobook is also great for sewing along with.)”

Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been):

“Pride and Prejudice; I just swoon over Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy. I think the very end of that novel is the most romantic ending ever.”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA ):

“I think it was the summer I was 13, my mom gave me her copy of Gone With the Wind to read when I complained about being bored. I was completely swept up in that story. I still re-read it from time to time.”

Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue coming June 8, 2010):

“Favorite love story is still Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons — a day in the life of a very real couple. No heaving bosoms, no chiseled jaws. Just a scatty, interfering wife and a gruff, fed-up husband who bicker and sweat and even hate each other at times. This book is a testament to the kind of love that matters–love that endures.”

Jessica Barksdale Inclan (Being With Him, Intimate Beings, The Beautiful Being):

“While most of the love is thwarted in this story, the longing in The Mists of Avalon always bowls me over. Love that they reach and reach for and never get who or what they want–but they still love. This same longing and imagery in The English Patient, at the end.

“The love of a father for his daughters in Animal Dreams. So heartrending. So amazing.”

Lauren Baratz-Logsted (most recent Crazy Beautiful YA, Sisters 8 series with Book 5: Marcia’s Madness coming May 3, 2010):

“Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez”

Shana Mahaffey (Sounds Like Crazy):

“I don’t remember the title, but I do remember the book quite well. It was one of those mass market bodice rippers where you have the eighteenth century Helen of Troy, whose somehow fallen on hard times and is enslaved to some purported evil, albeit devilishly handsome landowner with a the rakish cowboy who has nothing but is ready to whisk Mary off into the sunset on the back of his horse thrown in. I stole it off the pile of books next to my mother’s bed during the summer of my thirteenth year. What makes this book so memorable (forgotten title notwithstanding) is that it’s the first book I stayed up all night to finish. My cousins still talk about getting up around nine in the morning and finding me on the couch where they’d left me the night before, nose still buried in the book. Nothing against Judy Blume, but getting Forever after a Bodice Rippers is akin to my first opera experience: I saw the La Boheme dream team—Pavarotti and Freni—from row F center—nothing else will ever compare.”

Ivy Pochoda (The Art of Disappearing):

“God, who doesn’t love a juicy Jane Austen love story! They’re all fantastic.”

Kristina Riggle (Real Life & Liars):

“I feel like I bang on all the time about BREATHING LESSONS by Anne Tyler, but it is about love and is one of my favorite books. Not only did it influence me as a writer, but I think it was illuminating for me to read as a young woman, demonstrating that a married couple can bicker, chafe, get so infuriated they can barely look at each other, and still be fully in love.

“In order to vary my answer to these questions a bit, I adore THE GREAT GATSBY which I guess is not a love story in the “happy ending” sense, but it is a romantic story in the sense of romanticizing a person, and how dangerous that can be.

“In a more classic “love story” sense, I did very much enjoy DELICIOUS by Sherry Thomas! Yum.”

Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy):

“This is a tough question! Anyone who knows me knows my favorite novel is The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger), but I don’t know that I’d call it my favorite love story. Flowers from the Storm by Laura Kinsale might be my favorite. Kinsale is a masterful storyteller with great voice, and FftS offers unique but authentic characterizations, a riveting plot, and a pitch-perfect resolution. It’s a definite keeper.”

Emily Winslow (The Whole World coming May 25, 2010):

“My favorite couple is Sam Vimes and Lady Sybil in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, beginning with the book “Guards! Guards!” “She smiled at him. And then it arose and struck Vimes that, in her own special category, she was quite beautiful; this was the category of all the women, in his entire life, who had ever thought he was worth smiling at. She couldn’t do worse, but then, he couldn’t do better. So maybe it balanced out. She wasn’t getting any younger, but then, who was? And she had style and money and common-sense and self-assurance and all the things that he didn’t, and she had opened her heart, and if you let her she could engulf you; the woman was a city. And eventually, under siege, you did what Ankh-Morpork had always done–unbar the gates, let the conquerors in, and make them your own.”

Our Authors’ True Love of the Writing Process, II

February 18, 2010 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Favorites, Profiles

As promised here is a continuation of authors’ responses to the question of: What do you love most about the writing process?

Alicia Bessette (Simply from Scratch coming August 5, 2010):

“For the most part, my writing process is arduous. Often when I’m struggling to find the right words or simply the courage to keep on typing, I hear Matt typing away in the next room, or hear him lean back in his chair and sigh. I’m married to a writer, and no one understands my struggles better. It’s an inspiring reminder of the miracle of our own love story, and it’s what I cherish the most about my writing process.”

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

“What I love most about writing is when I get it right. It’s very satisfying to use just the right word or image to describe something or write a beautiful sentence. Which is why I usually enjoy rewriting more than writing.”

Eileen Cook (Unpredictable, What Would Emma Do? YA and Getting Revenge on Lauren Wood YA):

“I love the new idea stage. I haven’t had a chance to ruin anything or realized why certain things won’t work. I’m convinced the idea is brilliant and I can’t wait to get started.”

Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue coming June 8, 2010):

“What I love most about the writing process is that rare moment when your isolated ideas start to mesh into something more whole. It happens when you least expect it and it is always astonishing as the first time.”

Therese Fowler (Souvenir, Reunion):

“The magical feeling of seeing a scene in my mind and transmitting it into words as if I’m taking dictation from the gods–with the result being characters and events that become absolutely real to me. That’s certainly not an every-day event, but knowing that it can happen and does happen thrills me.”

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

“I’m having my favorite writing moment today actually. There’s a point in the manuscript when my fingers are flying, when I don’t even look at the screen, when there is hard rock on in the background and I hear nothing else. I don’t even realize that I’m breathing, I don’t feel hunger, I’m not cold, I’m not hot, I don’t feel my body at all. The Apocalypse could be raging outside, but all I am is flying fingers and story and music. THAT is a happy Kristy Kiernan.”

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

“Those moments when you go in a completely unexpected, intuitive direction.”

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

“I love it when I am at just the editing state– just working on a sentence or a paragraph here and there– finding the beauty in the words and the language, and the truth in my characters.”

Randy Susan Meyers (The Murderer’s Daughters:

“What don’t I love about my writing process? I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be writing full time. Now, what do I love most? Bringing a story to life—reaching into the ‘what if’ of life and breathing energy into the first imagined bones—is the most exciting (and yet most difficult) part of writing. My second love is revision. It feels great having a finished draft—to have jumped the first hurdle—and be able to dig it and made it as good as I can.”

Sarah Pekkanen (The Opposite of Me, coming March 9, 2010):

“I love hunkering down on the couch, with my laptop and mug of tea nearby, and re-reading what I’ve written the day before, tweaking and polishing, before I move on to a fresh page. For me, re-writing is the best part of writing!”

Trish Ryan (He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not: A Memoir of Finding Faith, Love, and Happily Ever After, A Maze of Grace: A Memoir of Second Chances coming June 22, 2010):

“What I love most about the writing process is the way it helps me figure out how the different ideas in my head connect in the larger scheme of life. Writing about the things I care about is surprisingly revealing for me. Sometimes I’ll find myself someplace entirely different than where I thought a chapter was going…and it’s almost always better than what I’d planned. I love that there’s an element to writing that we don’t control…that as authors, we get to be surprised, too.”

Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky Ages 9 – 12):

“What I love most about my writing process:
I was going to answer “typing The End” when I’ve finished the first draft. But I don’t really type The End. Although it is true that I’m very very happy to be done with the first draft, which is the most difficult part of writing for me.”


Reminder: This Sunday, February 21st at 8:00 p.m. EST LIFETIME MOVIE NETWORK presents “Sins of the Mother,” based on Carleen Brice’s debut novel, Orange Mint and Honey. The movie has already received glowing reviews which can can be found in the post, Sins of the Mother Party Watch Checklist!

Announcement: The two winners, receiving a signed copy of Judy Merrill Larsen’s debut novel, All the Numbers, are Ellie Ann and Sue. Congratulations! Please email: diviningwand (at) gmail (dot) com with your mailing address and the book will be sent out promptly. And thank you to all who entered.

Happy Holidays from Meg Clayton, Ad Hudler, Melanie Benjamin, and Tish Cohen

December 21, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Holidays

‘Tis the season to be jolly or — more appropriate — to be joyful despite all the busyness. Today our authors offer a special recipe, wishlists, and a best gift given.


Meg Shares Page’s Post-It Turkey Dressing

MegtmbGrowing up, I was never a big fan of dressing, or gravy or anything, really, but the holiday turkey and the pies. For my oldest son’s first Thanksgiving, though, we trekked to Nashville to have Thanksgiving with my mom-in-law, and I tasted turkey dressing Page Davidson Clayton style. What a difference a recipe makes, especially when it includes cornbread, which I’ve always loved!

grandmotherwNickThe next year as the holidays approached I rang Page up – from the office, it appears, since the notes I took for her recipe are written in my messiest scrawl on two rectangular yellow post-it notes. As I’ve pulled it out over the years, I’ve often thought I should commit this to a recipe card. The two post-its no longer stick together, so I’m frequently left with one in hand as I search for its match in the scatter of cut-out and collected recipes that constitute most of my recipe book, and my scrawl is nearly impossible to read, even for me, too, and my spelling atrocious. But somehow I never did, and when I pulled it out this Thanksgiving, the first time I’ve made Page’s dressing since she died last year, I realized I never will; when I look at the post-its, Page springs to life for me again in a way I’m afraid I’ll lose if this wonderful recipe is reduced to careful ink on a 3×5 card.

“Make one recipe corn bread. While hot crumble it up in a bowl. Saute 1/2 – 1 small onion & celery. Use fair amount of margarine. Pour in some of the drippings from turkey and neck, etc., & water and onion and parsely flakes & cook broth for a couple hours. Use plain white bread or biscuits & crumble it up with cornbread (3-4 pieces). Pour in hot broth. Add salt, pepper & a little poultry seasoning. Put in sq. cake pan and bake at 350° or so for till not too brown (or make patties on cookie sheet)”

The celery is struck through because my husband turns out to be allergic to it, and Page said I could omit it, but the other strike-throughs are Page making up her mind about how she cooks. Several years ago, I started throwing in a few pecans and cranberries, too, which my gang likes. But why a square cake pan instead of a round one? How much is “fair amount” or “a little” or “some”? And what’s with the “little patties on a cookie sheet” – is that dressing? These are questions I never got answers to.

In sharing Page’s recipe, though, I mean to send some of the love she gave to me out into the world. And it’s delicious love! Happy holidays, everyone!
Meg Waite Clayton (The Wednesday Sisters)


Ad Hudler’s Personal Holiday Wishlist

AdtmbMud flaps for my truck, new kitchen apron, chain saw, cute little plates from Anthropologie, money for new ‘gator-skin boots, behavioral-modification classes for our cat, and sweet cards from my daughter and wife.
Ad Hudler (Man of the House, All This Belongs to Me, House Husband)


Melanie’s Personal Holiday Wishlist

MelanietmbA new fireplace for our living room; it’s what my husband and I are giving each other this year.
Melanie Benjamin (Alice I Have Been coming January 12, 2010)


Tish’s Best Gift to Her (Young) Son

TishtmbWhen my youngest was about five, many of his toys were battery operated and the poor child was born into a battery challenged household so once his Duracell’s ran out, the toys were rendered useless. He asked Santa for batteries and our photo of him that year is one with him grinning wide while holding up his favorite present: batteries. Kind of heart breaking and cute at the same time.
Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA, The Truth About Delilah Blue coming June 8, 2010)

Happy Holidays from Barrie Summy, Tish Cohen, and Therese Walsh

December 17, 2009 By: larramiefg Category: Authors' Holidays

The greetings continue with another recipe and favorite movies, music…even books!


Barrie’s Butter Tarts

BarrietmbGrowing up, we spent most weekends from May to October and a month in the summer at our cottage. Besides the regular activities like water skiing, swimming, board games and reading in the sun, my family loved a trip to Don’s Bakery in Bala, Ontario for delicious, mouth-watering butter tarts.

Now, I live in San Diego, a land bereft of butter tarts, and I’ve been forced to learn to bake them. Because I’m not particularly gifted in the kitchen, I generally only bake butter tarts once a year. And that would be at the holidays.

So, a food that was a summer tradition for me as a child has become a holiday tradition for my children.

First, I start with a tart shell. Here’s the recipe from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook:

1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 pound cold butter, in small pieces
1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, process the flour, salt and butter quickly. Through the funnel, add the egg yolk and ice water and process until the dough balls up. Wrap in foil and place in fridge for 20 min. Then roll out, cut circles with a cup and press into mold. Prick bottom of tarts with a fork and bake unfilled at 425 for 7 min. (The recipe says 12 min., but that was too long.)

The butter tart recipe I use is from a Mennonite cookbook: Food That Really Schmecks.

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup raisins
1 egg, beaten
2 Tablespoons butter (not margarine!), melted
1 Tablespoon water (or less if you use a large egg)
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat egg. Add brown sugar. Beat again. Add remaining ingredients. Fill shells 1/2 full. Bake at 450 for 15 min. (I only baked for 12 min., so start checking the tarts early).

The first trick is to make sure the filling stays slightly runny. So, don’t overcook.

The second trick is to not eat too many at one sitting.
Barrie Summy (I So Don’t Do Mysteries, I So Don’t Do Spooky Ages 9 – 12)


Tish’s Best Holiday Entertainment

TishtmbBest Christmas CD: Charlie Brown Christmas music by Vince Guaraldi.
Best Christmas book: Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher.
Best Christmas movie: It’s a Wonderful Life.
Best Christmas show: A Charlie Brown Christmas. The only trouble is, it’s way too short.
Tish Cohen (Town House, Inside Out Girl, Little Black Lies YA)


Therese’s Glorious and Classic Choices

ThereseWtmbI’m going to choose something unusual but glorious as my fave song: O Magnum Mysterium by Morten Lauridsen. It’s a choir piece, sung a capella, with haunting and breathtaking harmonics.
Book: The Night Before Christmas.
Movie: A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Therese Walsh (The Last Will of Moira Leahy)